Once No. 1, Interpublic Slips to Fourth Among Holding Cos.

Full-Year 2009 Earnings Down Almost 60%, but CEO Roth Strikes Optimistic Tone for 2010

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Interpublic Group of Cos. has slipped to the fourth-largest slot among advertising agency holding companies, as confirmed in its fourth-quarter earnings release this morning.

Interpublic, parent to agency networks including McCann Erickson and DraftFCB, reported revenue of $6.0 billion for 2009, down 13.4%, which pulls the holding company behind Publicis Groupe.

Interpublic full-year net income attributable to the company fell 58.9% to $121.3 million, and fourth-quarter earnings attributable to Interpublic dropped 37.1% to $136.4 million year over year. Interpublic saw the most dramatic decline in full-year revenue compared to Publicis and Omnicom Group reports.

Publicis, which houses the likes of agency networks Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi and media company Starcom MediaVest Group, is now the No. 3 holding company behind WPP and Omnicom, with $6.3 billion in full-year revenue, a 8.9% decline from 2008.

Publicis numbers were buoyed by an estimated $100 million in fourth-quarter revenue from Razorfish, which the Paris-based company acquired in October from Microsoft to build out its digital stable that already includes the highest-revenue-generating digital agency in the U.S. for 2008, Digitas.

"Looking at the quarter, the organic revenue decline of 8.2% represented a sequential improvement from the previous six months," said Interpublic CEO Michael Roth, according to a call statement. "We've consistently been clear that we think the worst of the recession's impact on our business is past."

Mr. Roth echoes Omnicom CEO John Wren, who, during a call reporting his company's double-digit profit decline, said advertising has made it through the worst of the current recession.

"Economic conditions appear to have stabilized, and we believe that we should see improvement during the course of 2010," Mr. Roth said, adding that business is optimistic for the second half of the year. Interpublic saw a 10.8% organic decrease for the full year.

The fourth-place ranking for Interpublic is not a surprise -- Publicis was ahead at the nine-month mark -- but the full-year figures lock in the position.

Interpublic, the original agency holding company, ranked No. 1 as recently as 2000. It slipped to second, behind Omnicom, in 2001, and third, behind WPP, in 2003. WPP took the top spot in 2008, after acquiring market-research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres. A media correlate is Time Warner, which was the nation's biggest media company in 2000 and is now No. 4 after spinning off Time Warner Cable and AOL.

WPP will report results March 5.

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