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WPP's bid for Australian advertising group could spark buying battle

LONDON - WPP Group could spark a battle for one of Australia's best-known advertising agencies, George Patterson Partners, as it reportedly attempts to take control of its parent company The Communications Group.

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TCG also owns Zenith Media, Professional Public Relations and Underline:Fitch. The company is considering either a flotation or a sale, and today described both as viable options.

WPP already owns 30% of the company, acquired when it bought Cordiant in 2003, while the private equity group Pacific Equity Partners, owns 55%. It has made an offer for the remaining share although, according to reports in the Australian media, it falls well short of the A$150m (£63m) figure at which the business has been valued.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Omnicom Group is to bid against WPP to buy TCG, while another newspaper, The Australian, says that Havas has also been mooted as a potential buyer. The reports say that Omnicom is likely to break up the group if it were successful, merging Zenith Media with OMD. However, some have suggested that it is bidding for the company to force WPP to pay more for the stake.

George Patterson Partners, founded in 1934, was previously known as George Patterson Bates, but changed its name in November 2003 after a management buyout, following WPP's acquisition of Cordiant. The management retains a 15% stake in TCG.

The agency counts among its clients the Australian telecoms giant Telstra, which reportedly has a clause saying it can switch agencies if George Patterson is sold to new owners. It also works on Kettle crisps, Arnotts Biscuits, which makes Tim Tams, and it worked on marketing for the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

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