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Yannick Bolloré, Havas chairman and CEO, refused to be drawn into speculation about the future of the merger between ad giants Publicis and Omnicom when questioned by investors at the French group's first quarter 2014 results presentation.
As the $35 billion merger – hit by regulatory and tax issues – hangs in the balance, Mr. Bolloré said only, "I don't think it's our place to comment on the competition. I'd like to reiterate that our scale at Havas allows us to adapt more efficiently to the new environment of the communications industry."
Havas, owner of Havas Worldwide advertising agency, Havas Media, Arnold Worldwide and BETC, announced organic growth of 3% and revenues of $540 million in the first quarter of the year, and claimed net new business of $930 million.
North America grew 3.7%, boosted by client wins last year from Havas Worldwide New York (Green Mountain Keurig and Liberty Mutual), and Havas Worldwide Chicago (Dish) that have started to have an impact on income.
In Europe, the U.K.'s 11.7% organic growth – the country's second consecutive quarter of double-digit growth -- balanced out the weaker markets in the south of the continent, producing an overall growth rate of 2.3%. Mr. Bolloré predicted that Spain would return to growth in the next quarter and said that France was "comfortable" despite zero growth.
Asia Pacific & Africa grew 5.9% and Latin America by 1.8% , with Brazil, Argentina and Chile putting in the strongest performances.
The $930 million new business wins included three accounts where Havas will take on both media and advertising duties: frozen food company Iglo in Europe, retailer Grupo Pao de Açucar in Brazil, and Paypal in the U.S. and Europe.
Mr. Bolloré said, "We are pitching much more offensively than defensively this year. We've been invited to 99% of reviews all over the world. Growth was very satisfactory in the first quarter of 2014 and I'm confident we will continue to perform well."
French rival Publicis Groupe posted organic growth of 3.3% in the first quarter, while London-based WPP grew 1.5%.