JCDecaux Is Said Advancing APN Talks for Major Australian Boost

(Bloomberg) -- JCDecaux SA is in talks with Australian billboard specialist APN Outdoor Group Ltd. about a richer offer than the French outdoor advertising company’s initial A$1.1 billion ($815 million) takeover bid for APN, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Talks between JCDecaux and APN picked up over the weekend after APN was beat by Ooh!media Ltd. in its takeover attempt for Adshel Street Furniture Pty Ltd., said the person, who asked not to be identified as the talks are private. APN is pushing for a price higher than the A$6.52 per share offered last week by JCDecaux, the person said.

JCDecaux is seeking to gain assets that would complement its own primary advertising spaces in Australia, the world’s seventh-biggest advertising market. The family-controlled company has expanded gradually in Australia since winning its first contract there in 2000. The takeover would be the largest for JCDecaux since it went public in 2001.

APN initially told shareholders to take no action regarding the bid from JCDecaux, as it assessed the offer and pursued the purchase of Adshel. With APN now facing a bigger, more powerful rival with the Ooh!media-Adshel tie-up, JCDecaux’s chances of success may have improved. An attempt by JCDecaux to buy a combined APN and Adshel also would have run into regulatory opposition, analysts have said.

JCDecaux is set to reach a deal to acquire APN at a higher price than its original offer, The Australian reported Sunday, citing unidentified sources.

Discussions continue, although a deal isn’t certain, JCDecaux said in a statement Monday. APN shares were halted Monday after a request from the company, pending an announcement on the proposal from JCDecaux. A spokesman for APN declined to comment.

JCDecaux shares rose 0.3 percent to 29.10 euros at 12:53 p.m. in Paris. APN shares have gained 30 percent this year to A$6.40.

JCDecaux has focused mostly on street furniture -- ads placed on bus shelters and similar structures. APN operates large roadside billboards and ad spots in train stations and airports. APN tried to merge with Ooh!Media last year but gave up after Australian regulators warned the deal would lessen competition in the out-of-home advertising market.

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