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Incepta and Chime confirm merger talks were held

LONDON - Chime Communications, the public relations holding company run by Lord Bell, has confirmed that it held merger talks with rival marketing services firm Incepta Group, but said that the talks have ceased.

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Statements were issued by Chime and Incepta this morning, following a report in the Sunday Telegraph that the two companies, which own some of the UK's biggest PR consultancies, had held "extensive" merger talks.

Incepta said it confirmed that merger talks have been held with Chime in the past, adding "but these discussions ceased without reaching an agreement".

Such a deal would have brought together some of the leading financial PR shops, including Citigate Dewe Rogerson, owned by Incepta, and Bell Pottinger Financial, part of Chime. Incepta also owns consumer PR agency the RED Consultancy, while Chime is home to Good Relations.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that the talks were thought to have been instigated by Lord Bell, chairman of Chime and a former PR adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Any agreement would have had to have the blessing of Sir Martin Sorrell, because WPP owns a 20% stake in Chime. He is said to have approved of the talks in principle, as long as Chime secured fair terms from its larger rival Incepta.

Incepta and Chime both lost money in 2003 but last month Incepta, which is headed by Tory MP Francis Maude, said operating profit for the first half of the year was up 12% to £8.1m. In September, Chime reported that it had returned to profit, making £3.2m before tax for the first half of the year, compared with a loss of £5.3m the same time in 2003.

Shares in Chime Communications were up by 4.4% to 28.18p, a rise of 1.18p, while Incepta was unchanged first thing morning at 71p.

Chime also owns creative agency Heresy, while Incepta owns market research firm Incepta Marketing Intelligence as well as other below-the-line interests.

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