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Bollore to press for Aegis seats as Havas beats targets

PARIS - Havas has reported a 16.9% jump in income for the first half of 2007, as chairman Vincent Bollore said he would continue to press for seats on the Aegis board.

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Havas said that income from operations was up 16.9% to €75m and showed a significant increase on the first half 2006. Operating income was also €75m, an increase of 34.4% compared to first half 2006, while net income was up by 70.6%.

Fernando Rodes, CEO at Havas, said he expected 2007 underlying sales to grow faster than previously forecast, with stronger operating margins. He said sales would grow around 4-5%, rather than expectations of 3-4%.

In July Havas reported first half revenues of €729m, up by just 1.3%.

Bollore said he saw no slowdown in July and August and that Havas's growth was "as good, even better, than in the first half.

"We are regaining large global clients. I am rather optimistic over the future."

Havas had a strong second quarter, with organic growth of 5.4%, compared to 3.2% in the first quarter -- giving it first half growth of 4.4%, which is at its highest level since the first half of 2001.

The group was helped by new business growth of more than €1.2bn, which is the highest level in the last five years. Some of the key account wins included Sears, Volvo, Kraft Foods, Turespana, BBC and Virgin Mobile.

At a press conference Bollore said that a takeover of Aegis, in which he has a 29% stake, was still a possibility, but he said this would mean diversifying his assets.

He said: "All options are always open. But our stakes in Havas and Aegis already represent €1.5bn. To get 100% of these two companies would require a further investment of more than 1bn euros in each. Such a concentration of means would be far from our asset diversification strategy."

He said he regretted the "bunker mentality" of Aegis's management, which has repeatedly refused to grant him any board representation, despite being the group's largest shareholder.

He said he will contact Aegis again to call a shareholder meeting to vote on his demand for two board seats, although he gave no timetable for this.

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