Interpublic Buys Into Huge

Deal Lets Holding Company Add to Online Capabilities; Brooklyn Shop Gains Wider Global Network

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Interpublic Group of Cos. is aiming to bring its agency brands and clients added interactive capabilities though a deal the holding company announced this morning. Interpublic has purchased a stake in Huge, a shop specializing in e-commerce and building online businesses.
Michael Roth
Michael Roth

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Deeper into digital
"Marketing services in the interactive space has evolved well beyond site development and interface design. ... Our clients no longer think of digital as just a messaging medium -- they view it as a proven tool which provides users with experiences and functionality that drive their businesses," Michael Roth, Interpublic's chairman-CEO, said in a statement. "These are the areas in which Huge excels."

For Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Huge, the deal will help the 9-year-old independent shop -- which currently has 130 employees in three domestic offices and one in London -- expand its international footprint. Huge, whose clients include JetBlue, Ikea and Warner Music Group, is expected to retain its identity and remain a stand-alone entity under the Interpublic banner.

News of the deal was first signaled earlier this morning by Interpublic's Mr. Roth as part of a conference call with analysts, and it comes on the heels of the news yesterday that Interpublic increased its stake in Dubai-based Middle East Communication Networks (MCN) from a minority position to 51% ownership. MCN is the region's premier marketing services management company, with 60 offices across 14 countries.

Judicious growth
In case you're wondering, executives at the holding company say the deal isn't an indication that Interpublic is drifting back into the hyper-acquisitive mode it was in a few years ago. The company plans to stick to an acquisition budget of about $150 million this year to ink strategic deals that fill a hole or give them a capacity they don't currently have, executives on the conference call said.

Second-quarter profit at the holding company dropped to $88.1 million from $122 million in the year-prior period, largely because results in the second quarter of 2007 included a tax benefit of about $80 million. For the first six months of 2008, Interpublic saw $18.2 million profit, an improvement over a net loss of $2.7 million in the first half of 2007.

Still in the midst of a much-talked-about turnaround, executives on the call insisted that Interpublic's results were in line with 2008 financial objectives.
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