Five in 500m auction for Havas outdoor arm

A shortlist of five potential buyers for Havas’s outdoor advertising arm has emerged as bids approach 500m.

TDI, Clear Channel, Decaux, Outdoor Systems Incorporated and US financial group Texas Pacific are on the shortlist for the French-based poster group, which owns Mills & Allen and Sky Sites in the UK.

Havas’s outdoor division, properly called Havas Media Communication – Outdoor Advertising (HMC-OA), was originally thought to be worth about 350m, but newspaper reports in France suggest its owners Vivendi are hoping for 450m to 500m, with a final buyer expected to emerge by the end of this month. It is understood that Vivendi received ten serious bids, but that some parties refused to bid above 400m.

There is still a chance that Carlton or another player such as Scottish Media Group – which bought Primesite last month for 35m and announced the purchase of Scottish poster contractor Baillie for an estimated 7.5m this week – could buy Mills & Allen. If TDI or Clear Channel buy HMC-OA, it seems likely that they will be forced to divest the 48-sheet poster contractor because of competition rules.

Maiden Outdoor reported a drop in pre-tax profits of 35.4 per cent in the year to December 31 1998, down to 6.5m compared with 10.1m in 1997. The profit figure does not take into account the write-off of goodwill from last year’s purchase of Adlight. The full write-down will be factored in over the next seven years. Maiden sales were up 3.3 per cent to 65.3m compared with 63.2m. The company blamed poor 48-sheet poster sales at the time of the World Cup. It also gave a gloomy report for the first quarter of 1999, with roadside business trading down year on year. However, chief executive Ron Zeghibe points out the company’s share price closed unchanged at 412.5p, and that there were good results in roadside and six-sheet sales.

Media Comment, page 16

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