ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Fleishman-Hillard Inc., which handles public relations for Anheuser-Busch and Southwestern Bell, will be bought by Omnicom Group of New York, according to news reports.

The merger would create the world's largest public relations operation, with more than $300 million in fees annually.

The deal, worth $85 million to $100 million, will be announced soon, Advertising Age reported Monday.

Fleishman-Hillard spokesman Jim Morice declined to comment Tuesday. Omnicom officials had no immediate comment.

In a memo to employees at Fleishman headquarters in St. Louis, chairman John Graham stopped short of confirming a sale. But he suggested upcoming changes were ``about growth, strength and people,'' an unidentified account executive told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Fleishman has 1,000 employees, and Omnicom has 22,700 employees worldwide.

Omnicom already owns two public relations firms, both based in New York. Porter Novelli, the world's fourth-largest PR firm has about 1,200 employees and $121 million in revenue. Ketchum has some 600 employees and $75 million in revenue. The two companies have operated separately since Ketchum's purchase last year.