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JCDecaux Considers News Corp.’s Russian Unit, Forecasts Growth

May 9 (Bloomberg) -- JCDecaux SA, the world’s largest seller of outdoor ads, said it’s interested in acquisition targets including News Corp.’s Russia-based advertising unit.

JCDecaux, based in Neuilly-sur-Seine outside Paris, walked away from purchasing News Corp.’s Moscow-based News Outdoor in 2008 because the price was too high and the French advertiser didn’t find a Russian partner, Co-Chief Executive Officer Jean-Francois Decaux said in an interview today.

“With the right Russian partner, which you need to do a deal in Russia, it could be interesting to us,” Decaux said. News Outdoor has operations in countries including Russia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.

JCDecaux has a credit line of 850 million euros ($1.22 billion) with a group of banks in Europe and withheld its dividend from 2010 annual earnings in March to have cash for acquisitions. A group of Russian investors including VTB Capital, Alfa Capital Partners and CTC Media founder Peter Gerwe was in talks to buy News Outdoor in late January, a person familiar with the plans said at the time.

JCDecaux has also been public about its desire to purchase U.S. rival CBS Outdoor Inc., saying it was the “natural buyer” for the company.

CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves last week said he’d be open to talks with JCDecaux, even though his company is not actively seeking a buyer for the outdoor unit. Decaux today declined to comment on possible talks.

Emerging Markets

“We have a lot of competitors with very weak balance sheets and then a big competitor, which says outdoor advertising is no longer part of its core,” Decaux said, referring to CBS Corp. He also expressed interest in small and medium-sized targets.

JCDecaux today reported a 9.9 percent increase in first-quarter sales, helped by growth in emerging markets and “solid” performances in more mature ones. It forecast organic revenue growth, which strips out effects from acquisitions and mergers, of about 4 percent for the second quarter.

First-quarter revenue climbed to 535.3 million euros. Sales at the company’s street furniture division rose 6.7 percent to 261.7 million euros, while the transport unit, which has ads on vehicles including buses, soared 22 percent to 181.3 million euros, and billboard ads dropped 1 percent to 92.3 million euros.

News Outdoor, founded in 1999, has more than 4,500 employees and operates about 60,000 ad displays in more than 300 cities, according to its website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristen Schweizer in London at kschweizer1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net

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