Advertising giant WPP tonight declared its interest in buying Aegis, the media and marketing group facing a possible £1.6bn (€2.34bn) takeover.
The acquisitive group said it was attracted by the market research business Synovate, which is a division of London-based Aegis.
It is thought that WPP is working with private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, which may look to take control of the media buying part of Aegis.
Aegis, which is best known as the owner of the Carat media planning agency, received a potential offer worth £1.57bn (€2.29bn) from French advertising agency Publicis in September.
It later indicated it had been approached by more than one party, although reports today said Publicis had since decided against making an offer. That speculation sent shares 4% lower.
WPP said in a statement that it was in “discussions with a private equity partner to explore the feasibility of a cash offer for Aegis Group”.
WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell earlier told the Daily Telegraph: “Scale is important in this business. Aegis has an interesting research business and it has always sat rather uncomfortably with the media buying business.”
In August WPP posted a 32% hike in first half profits to £255m (€373m) and said it had increased its share of the advertising market in recent weeks.
WPP is one of the world’s biggest advertising and public relations firms, with almost 91,000 staff and more than 2,000 offices in 106 countries.
Its agencies include J Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and Young & Rubicam, while it has the Hill & Knowlton PR business in the UK. Major deals in recent months have included the £730m (€1.06bn) purchase of New York-based agency Grey Global.