Aegis raises £190m war chest for buys

Steve Dinneen
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AEGIS announced yesterday it has appointed a new chief executive, filling a 16-month void at the head of the company.

The marketing and advertising group also unveiled a £190m convertible bond issue, due in 2015, which it says will be used for US acquisitions and to shore up its balance sheet.

Jerry Buhlmann, an internal recruitment, was installed as chief executive of the firm. He inherits a firm resolutely clawing its way back from the financial abyss of 2009, when the advertising drought pummeled its bottom line.

Aegis posted a 21.8 per cent drop in pre-tax profits, down to £149.3m. However, it showed signs of steady improvement in the fourth quarter.

It saw full-year organic revenues fall 9.7 per cent, which was worse than its peers but within a range provided by analysts. It said it now expected to achieve modest, single-digit growth in 2010.

The company saw its share price rocked as investors took the appointment and bond issue to signal the end of a long-touted merger with French rival Havas. The two firms have been widely linked as they share a powerful shareholder, Vincent Bolloré.

However, a spokesman said the issue saw a flurry of demand when it opened at 9am yesterday and was over subscribed.

The new chairman will now use a large chunk of his £190m war chest to target US firms that can help drag Aegis back to revenue growth in 2010.

Buhlmann, who is seen as a safe pair of hands, was previously chief executive of Aegis Media and joined the firm’s board in 2008. He was formerly chief executive of Carat International. In 1989 he founded media agency BBJ, which was sold to Aegis ten years later.


JP MORGAN Cazenove and Société Générale Corporate & Investment Banking are acting as joint bookrunners for the offering.

From Société Générale are Jose-Antonio Gagliardi and Jon Eltringham. Gagliardi is Head of the Equity-Linked division of Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking. He joined in 1992 and worked in the fixed income derivatives team until 1998 when he moved to the equity-linked team, which he has headed up since 2008.

Jon Eltringham is a coverage banker for a portfolio of UK corporate and investment banking clients. Jon has been at Societe Generale corporate & Investment Banking for three years, having joined from Lloyds Bank where he managed a portfolio of large-cap UK corporate clients. Prior to working in the UK, he spent five years in Latin America with Lloyds International Banking.