Alliance Data Unit Draws Publicis, Goldman and Advent

(Bloomberg) -- Alliance Data Systems Corp.’s Epsilon marketing unit has attracted bids from French advertising giant Publicis Groupe SA as well as a joint offer from Advent International and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., people familiar with the matter said.

The company could select a winning bidder as early as next week in an auction that could fetch about $5 billion, said the people, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. There’s no guarantee an agreement will be reached and the bidders may still decide to walk away, the people said.

Representatives for Alliance Data, Publicis and Advent declined to comment. A representative for Goldman Sachs, which would likely bid with its private equity unit, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Alliance Data rose 2 percent to $175.65 at 3:42 p.m.

Epsilon uses data to help its clients customize advertisements to their customers. Its services span from loyalty programs to email marketing and its digital arm, Conversant, collects consumer data including transactions, location and web activity.

Alliance Data said in February that it was weighing preliminary offers for the unit after announcing a review in November. The company has said it will use proceeds of a sale to pay down debt and reward investors through a dividend or share buyback.

Plano, Texas-based Alliance Data specializes in customer loyalty programs and store-branded credit cards for companies including J. Crew and Pottery Barn. The company has a market value of about $9.2 billion after shares have declined 18 percent in the past year.

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