Agency Groups Report Mixed Results, Cite Media As Bright Spot

Agency holding company Publicis Groupe, the parent of Starcom MediaVest Group and Zenith Optimedia, reported slight growth in the third quarter on Wednesday, with a strong boost from media and advertising in the United States helping to offset weakness in Europe and elsewhere.

Revenues rose to $3.27 billion for the quarter ending Sept. 30 - up 58 percent from the same period last year - because of the acquisition of Bcom3, which was completed in late September 2002.

In North America, which gives Publicis its largest share of revenues worldwide, Bcom3's acquisition boosted its revenues 66.9 percent to $499.61 million in the third quarter. Organic growth, which financial analysts use to eliminate the vagaries of currency and acquisitions/dispositions in holding company growth estimates, was 2 percent worldwide and 4.1 percent in North America.

Publicis, which also owns Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, Fallon and the Kaplan Thaler Group, saw total ad billings rise 57 percent year over year, thanks to the Bcom3 acquisition.



Publicis won $600 million in new business in the third quarter and $2.7 billion so far this year, with 60 percent in advertising. It included Zenith Optimedia's Wyeth account in the United States.

Maurice Levy, chairman and chief executive officer of the Paris-based holding company, said Publicis' focus in the coming months would be to improve its financial position and to continue the absorption of Bcom3's assets into the Publicis network.

"The acquisition is moving satisfactorily through all aspects," Levy said Thursday afternoon.

Publicis was one of two Paris-based holding companies that reported its earnings Thursday. Havas gave a much less positive report on its third quarter earnings, with a fall in revenues to $433.4 million from $443 million a year ago. Organic growth fell 5.5 percent. It is, however, the narrowest decline for the holding company compared to past quarters, with a decline of 5.8 percent in the first quarter and a decrease of 7.8 percent in the second quarter. Havas owns Media Planning Group (MPG), Arnold Worldwide Partners and Euro RCSG.

Havas' results also stand in sharp contrast to two other holding companies that also reported recently. Omnicom's revenues rose 14.7 percent to $2.02 billion in the third quarter. Advertising, which made up 41 percent of the revenues, grew 12.7 percent to $844 million in the third quarter.

WPP, which owns MindShare and Mediaedge:cia, saw revenues in the third quarter rise to a record $1.7 billion, up 11 percent compared to the same period last year. Organic revenue, which does not include the boost given from acquisitions or foreign exchange rates, was up more than 1 percent during the quarter. Revenue from advertising and media buying rose 15.2 percent to $818 million in the third quarter.

On another matter related to advertising, Publicis' Levy hedged in responding to an analyst's question about his company's chances of winning the Coca-Cola Co. and Masterfoods account reviews. He noted that both are winner-take-all, and said he preferred not to speculate on whether Publicis would win.

"We can lose what we have and we can win what we have not," he said.

Observers believe Coca-Cola Co. could announce a decision on its long-awaited media account review as soon as today.

Next story loading loading..