Havas prepares to shed outdoor media divisions

Speculation is mounting that French media giant Havas is preparing to sell its outdoor advertising divisions, Avenir and Europoster – which include the UK’s Mills & Allen.

Sources inside the company believe the recent acquisition by French utilities Compagnie Générale des Eaux of 30 per cent of Havas Media will trigger the sale.

The acquisition ended years of wrangling about the strategic direction of the group, when it was decided last month to concentrate on core electronic media business such as digital TV.

This has already been flagged by Havas taking a 34 per cent stake in French broadcaster Canal+ – which makes it the largest shareholder.

“It is a reasonable assumption that posters don’t fit with the new strategy,” says a senior company source.

Speculation has mounted in the London poster community that a Mills & Allen management buyout is being planned. But sources have dismissed the possibility that Havas will allow its poster group to be broken up. Colm O’Cuilleanáin, chief executive of M&A, denies any buyout plan.

Philippe Santini, former chief executive of M&A, and chief executive of Havas’ domestic poster company Avenir, claims posters still fit with the Havas strategy.

“We might be sold, but is not on the agenda for the time being,” he says. “The company wants a strong international presence and outdoor provides that.”

Santini denies he might lead a buyout, claiming a price tag of 300m would make the outdoor operation – which accounts for four per cent of Havas’ turnover – too expensive for a management team.

A number of UK media owners are likely to be interested in M&A if it is separated from Avenir. Carlton Communications has already asked investment bankers to crunch the figures for a UK outdoor acquisition.

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