Havas Posts Full-Year Revenue Decline of 9.1%

Signs of Recovery in North America, Asia, Latin America, but U.K. "Still Suffering"

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Havas Worldwide today reported 2009 full-year revenue of $1.99 billion, a 8.1% drop compared to 2008.

The Paris-based ad holding company, which is the parent of Euro RSCG, Arnold Worldwide and MPG, did not report net income. It cited organic growth as being down 7.9% for the full year, but found comfort in a slowdown of losses in fourth-quarter organic growth, down 4.4% for the period vs. a loss of 9.2% for the first nine months of 2009.

On a regional basis, Havas said it saw signs of economic recovery in North America, Asia and Latin America but that "the U.K. market is still suffering from the effects of the crisis."

In North America, organic growth was nearly flat in the fourth quarter compared to a loss of 7% in the third quarter of 2009. In Latin America, the fourth quarter saw Havas return to a positive growth of 6.4%, helped by good results in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, bringing the whole year up to 1.1%. And in the Asia-Pacific region, Havas' media business performed better than other parts of the group, but growth still shrank by 1.3% in the fourth quarter and was down by 14.2% for the year.

Havas' home territory of France showed organic growth was down 1.9% in the fourth quarter, and down 3.7% for the whole year. The figure was helped by new business wins from local marketers, sch as grocery Monoprix and carmaker Peugeot. Across the rest of Europe, Havas reported positive growth in the fourth quarter, but it struggled in the U.K., where fourth-quarter growth was down 14.3%, continuing the double-digit declines it felt throughout 2009.

Havas started 2009 with the loss of a major client: the $1 billion Carrefour business. But its agencies returned with a strong new-business performance, particularly with digital wins such as IBM's global digital account, Heineken in North America, and Hyundai Kia and Reckitt Benckiser in various global markets.

Digital increased its share of group revenue, rising from 9% in 2006 to 16% in 2009 without any significant acquisitions. This year, Havas projects digital will account for a total of 20% of the holding company's overall revenue.

In 2009, Havas' BETC Euro RSCG in France completed a successful $484 million corporate bonds issue, fueling speculation that it is about to hit the acquisition trail. Havas is also subject of persistent rumors about a merger with U.K.-based Aegis Group, with some in the market predicting the deal will finally get done in 2010. Havas' chairman and major shareholder, Vincent Bollore, is also Aegis Group's largest shareholder.

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