Havas reported 3.4% organic growth in the first quarter of 2016, to $571.1 million. Yannick Bollore, Havas chairman and CEO, said there was a slowdown in both the U.S. and the U.K. but attributed it to hard-to-match high growth during the same period in 2015.
Organic revenue grew by just 1.2% in the U.S. and fell by 1.6% in the U.K., the only major market to post a decline. Mr. Bollore said those figures were in line with forecasts, and pointed out that the baseline was high in both markets, with the U.S. growing by 10.2% in the first quarter of 2015.
"There is not enough new business in the pipeline to replicate the last two years of performance," he said.
He said the downturn in the U.K. doesn't have anything to do with Brexit, the controversy over whether the U.K. should exit the European Union that will be put to a vote in June, and said he believes the U.K. performance will improve later this year.
Overall Havas reported $889.4 million in net new business for the first quarter of 2016.
In contrast to the other holding companies that have already reported first-quarter earnings, Mr. Bollore singled out Brazil as a top performer, thanks to new business wins, and "the main explanation" for organic growth of 11.4% for Latin America in the first quarter. He said that Havas-owned creative shop BETC, opened two years ago in Sao Paulo, doubled in size due to winning the Peugeot account for Brazil from a WPP agency.
"And there may be some tipping point for Brazil from the Olympic Games, or at least we can hope for it," he said, referring to Rio de Janeiro's upcoming host role for the Summer Olympics.
Havas' competitors painted a very different picture of Brazil. Omnicom, for instance, said on its earnings call that first-quarter organic growth in Brazil was minus 20%.
Many of the questions that Mr. Bollore fielded on a call with analysts were about prospects for Brazil, where the lower house of Congress voted on Sunday to impeach President Dilma Rousseff and the economy is forecast to shrink by 3.7% this year.
"If the political situation can be resolved, I think [the Olympics] will be a source of joy," said Mr. Bollore, who visited Brazil last month.