French ad giant Publicis buys digital media firm for almost €3 billion

November 3, 2014
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, publicis-AFP

French advertising giant Publicis on Monday announced its purchase of US digital marketing specialist Sapient for €2.95 billion. Publicis’s attempt to merge with US group Omnicom to create the world’s largest ad company failed earlier this year.

French advertising agency Publicis said Monday it had bought US digital marketing specialists Sapient in a $3.7 billion (2.95 billion euro) deal.

Publicis, whose attempts to merge with US group Omnicom and create the world’s biggest advertising company failed earlier this year, said it had agreed to pay $25 a share for Boston-based Sapient.

The French group said that in acquiring Sapient, its digital operations now represented more than half its business “three years before the goal set out in our strategic plan”.

Markets seemed unimpressed with the deal, however, with Publicis shares dropping 3.3 percent while the wider French stock market was broadly flat.

The failure of the Omnicom deal, which would have created an advertising giant to overtake Britain’s WPP employing 130,000 staff with annual sales of 20 billion euros, led to a boardroom shake-up at Publicis.

Chief executive Maurice Levy, 72, decided to stay on until 2017 as the head of the firm in the wake of the collapsed deal, despite previously pledging to leave when his term expires next year.

Meanwhile, chief operating officer Jean-Yves Naouri, once tipped to succeed Levy, left as part of a major reshuffle of the senior executive team.

Publicis said at the time that the deal fell through because of deep differences that widened during the negotiations, administrative problems, and an unduly long timetable.

Sapient, a pioneer of Internet-based technology, had turnover of $1.36 billion and profits of $85.9 million in its last financial year.

On Friday, speculation about the imminent Publicis deal pushed Sapient’s shares up 2.79 percent to $17.32 on the US tech-heavy Nasdaq exchange.

Levy warned in July it would be a “difficult year” for Publicis, as the group reported that net profit for the first half of the year fell by 16.9 percent to 260 million euros, weighed down by the strength of the euro.

Sales were about steady compared with the equivalent figure last year, showing a gain of 0.2 percent to 3.365 billion euros, but performance slowed sharply in the second quarter.

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