AdAge.com -- Havas, WPP Group and private-equity firm Hellman & Friedman all are formally proceeding on bids for Grey Global Group, according to an individual close to the matter.
$900 a share
WPP came in with an offer at more than $900 a share or at least $1.25 billion; Hellman at $880 a share or $1.22 billion; and Havas at $850 a share or $1.18 billion, the person said.
At those levels, all bids would be considerably below Grey's Sept 8 closing price of $940 a share or $1.31 billion.
Grey's prolonged auction at this point appears to have added little value. The best reported offer, from WPP, isn't much above the price -- $850 a share -- where Grey closed June 24, the day before the first media reports that Grey's chairman-CEO, Ed Meyer, had hired investment bankers to shop the company.
WPP was seen from early on as the potential buyer in the strongest position to do the deal, and its apparent top bid confirms that status. British giant WPP, though, still faces skeptical investors who would like it to take a pass on the acquisition of an underperforming mid-tier rival.
If Havas and Hellman bids came in behind WPP, it's conceivable they could raise their offers for New York-based Grey. But whether the auction gets heated is far from certain.
French ad firm Havas still must win over investors worried that it can ill afford to take on Grey given Havas' own high debt and performance issues. Havas could face opposition from Vincent Bollore, a French financier who this summer bought into Havas.
But Havas is forging ahead. Minutes after the official bidding deadline of 3 pm, New York Time yesterday, Havas announced it was proceeding on a bid. Havas became the first firm to formally disclose it was bidding.
Havas hasn't revealed its offering price. WPP and Hellman weren't commenting yesterday on their plans.
The three firms in recent weeks had emerged as the most likely -- and only -- bidders.
Hellman, a San Francisco buyout firm that once owned Young & Rubicam, is working with private-equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
Grey's investment bankers declined to comment yesterday, and Grey executives were not available.