Publicis to focus on digital deals after merger collapse

Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:57pm EDT
 
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By Paul Sandle

CANNES FRANCE (Reuters) - Publicis (PUBP.PA: Quote) boss Maurice Levy plans to shift the French advertising group more quickly and deeply into digital services following last month's collapse of his plan to merge with Omnicom (OMC.N: Quote) to create the world's largest ad agency.

The 72-year-old Levy, chief executive for the past 27 years, finds himself having to regroup and rebuild investor confidence before he steps down next year.

He told Reuters on Friday he would look to acquire smaller digital companies as well as increase the dividend. Later this year the company will start looking to find his successor.

"I am 100 percent focused on the future. I am not very much interested in the past; it is the end of the story," he said of the failed merger. "I am focusing on how we are going to sharpen our strategy."

Levy put the possibility of another merger on the scale of the Omnicom tie-up at "zero".

The $35 billion deal would have created a group bigger than industry leader Britain's WPP (WPP.L: Quote) and better placed to compete with technology rivals such as Google (GOOG.O: Quote) and Facebook (FB.O: Quote). Levy and John Wren, his counterpart at U.S. giant Omnicom, had planned to share the CEO role for the first 30 months.

But the deal, originally heralded as a merger of equals, fell apart last month as both sides fought to take control of the group.

Levy admitted on Friday that cultural differences had become a real issue, while the companies had also realised they could not deliver the promised benefits to shareholders.   Continued...

 
Maurice Levy, French advertising group Publicis Chief executive, reacts as he attends a joint news conference with Omnicom Group head, in Paris, July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann