The Bolloré Group is attempting to buy a controlling stake in Havas, the world's sixth-largest advertising company, but has ruled out an imminent sale.
The group, which currently owns 36.2 percent of Havas, on Friday filed a share exchange offer that would give it more than 50 percent of Havas’ shares.
It has offered an exchange of nine shares of Bolloré for five shares of Havas. The transaction means Havas' shareholders could exchange their shares while at the same time receiving a 19.5 percent premium.
The premium figure is based on the last price before suspension of the shares of Havas and Bolloré, which happened earlier Friday pending company statements.
The offer will open at the start of December and will close in mid-January. The result will be published at the end of January.
A spokesman for the Bolloré Group said one of the reasons for the offer was to bolster Havas’ international presence.
"This offer will help them in a number of regions," the spokesman said on a conference call late Friday. "For example, they could use our bases in Africa and also in Asia. We can allocate Bolloré resources to help speed up the internationalization of Havas."
The move increased speculation that a sale of Havas may be imminent. But the spokesman added: "We are very clear, we do not want to sell Havas or transfer ownership to anybody else."
The Bolloré Group is led by Vincent Bolloré, the father of Yannick Bolloré, who became chief executive of Havas earlier this year. The friendly transaction continues the relationship between the two companies, which began 10 years ago.
"The public exchange offer fits into the continuity of Bolloré's long-term investment in Havas," said Vincent Bolloré, the Bolloré Group’s chief executive and chairman.
"The offer highlights the confidence of Bolloré in Havas' strategy as an independent group among the world leading communication players.
"The transaction gives the opportunity to Havas' shareholders who wish to do so to exchange their shares for those of a well-diversified group with strong international exposure, while at the same time receiving an attractive premium."
Yannick Bolloré, speaking at Advertising Week in New York earlier this month, discussed the benefits of having a family business, saying that Havas and other agencies in the Bolloré network "have a clear advantage, because you are not focused on short-term profits.
"The main goal for Havas is to build the best group in the industry for the future," he said. "We see the future in years, not months."