IPG Posts Uptick, Growth Led By Asia-Pacific

Michael-RothThe Interpublic Group of Companies posted a 2.2% revenue increase for the first quarter of 2012 to just over $1.5 billion. The company narrowed its year-to-year net loss to $39.4 million from $45.3 million for the same period a year ago.

Organic revenue growth, which excludes acquisitions and currency fluctuations, was up 2.8% for the quarter, which was roughly in line with the full-year guidance given by IPG earlier. It is also lower than competitors that have already reported first-quarter results.

Omnicom Group, for example, said its first-quarter organic growth rose 5.1%, Publicis Groupe and Havas reported comparable growth of 4.1% and 3.5%, respectively.

Interpublic Group CEO Michael Roth told analysts on a call to discuss results that the company is off to a “solid start” for 2012. He asserted that 2.8% organic growth was impressive on top of the 9.3% growth the company achieved for the same period last year.



A number of Wall Street analysts agreed in their follow-up notes to clients on the results.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Daniel Salmon wrote: “IPG showed a strong start to 2012 when many were suspecting organic revenue growth could be negative, as the impact of the SC Johnson loss begins to be felt.” Deutsche Bank analyst Matt Chesler noted that the ad holding company “delivered a positive surprise operationally.” The company’s organic growth was well ahead of Wall Street’s consensus estimate of 1.5%, he wrote. The majority of Wall Street firms covering IPG currently have a "buy" rating on the firm.

Roth told analysts he was confident that the company would reach its full-year targets of 3% organic revenue growth, while improving its operating profit margin by a half a percentage point.

Growth by region was led by Asia-Pacific, which posted nearly 17% organic growth compared to 2.7% growth in the U.S. Continental Europe showed an organic revenue decline of 5.5%, as clients curbed spending in the economically troubled region.

Roth said that digital operations throughout the company excelled, as did PR operations including Weber Shandwick and Golin Harris. Mediabrands, Lowe and several U.S.-focused shops also had strong performances in the quarter, he said.

Roth said the company’s new business pipeline was more robust now than it was a year ago, when IPG found itself defending more big pieces of business than it was pitching. It’s currently competing in the global Unilever media consolidation review through Initiative (against Mindshare and PHD), where the company, with assignments mostly in Latin America, has much more to win than lose, he said.

Add shop Hill Holliday is contending in the Bank of America review, where Roth said there is more of an upside than down. He said the company was expecting decisions in both pitches by the end of the second quarter.

The company had a big win in the first quarter, teaming with Omnicom to form a joint-venture agency called Commonwealth which won the global General Motors ad account. That helped IPG generate double-digit growth in its auto sector, said Roth, who noted a double-digit increase in the retail sector as well. The financial service and food and beverage categories also grew, he said.

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