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Omnicom, Publicis say waiting period for deal ends

NEW YORK (AP) -- Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe SA said Friday that the antitrust waiting period related to the proposed combination of the advertising companies has expired, clearing a hurdle for the transaction.

The companies announced in July that they were combining in a "merger of equals" that would create the world's largest advertising firm, one worth more than $35 billion.

The transaction still needs approval from the shareholders of both companies.

The combined company will be called Publicis Omnicom Group and be jointly led by Omnicom CEO John Wren and Publicis CEO Maurice Levy as co-chief executives.

The deal is designed to bolster the companies' focus on growing Asian and Latin American markets such as China and Brazil, where they each have ramped up operations to counter lackluster growth in weak European markets.

Omnicom Group Inc., based in New York, owns BBDO Worldwide, DDB Worldwide Communications Group and TBWA Worldwide, among other agencies. Paris-based Publicis runs its namesake agency as well as Leo Burnett Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi and DigitasLBi.

The deal is structured so that the shareholders of Publicis and Omnicom, after special dividends, will each hold approximately 50 percent of the company.

Publicis shareholders will receive one new share of Publicis Omnicom Group for each Publicis share they own, together with a special dividend of 1 euro per share. Omnicom shareholders will receive 0.813 new shares of Publicis Omnicom Group for each Omnicom share they own, plus a special dividend of $2 per share.

The companies also said Friday that they have received approvals for the deal from regulatory authorities in Canada, India and Turkey. The companies previously received approvals from South Africa and South Korea.