Aegis Names CEO, Reports Revenue Down 9.7% for '09

Company Is Raising Money for Acquisitions in U.S., China

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Aegis Group has announced a $268 million bond issue to raise money for acquisitions in the U.S. and China, and also promoted Jerry Buhlmann, CEO of Aegis Media EMEA (the region covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa), to CEO of Aegis Group, starting May 1.

Jerry Buhlmann
Jerry Buhlmann Credit: Art Beaulieu
Mr. Buhlmann replaces Robert Lerwill, who left Aegis Group -- owner of media buying agency Carat and digital network Isobar -- 16 months ago. Chairman John Napier has been filling the role in the interim.

At its annual results meeting this morning, London-based Aegis announced a 9.7% fall in organic revenue, which excludes currency fluctuations, acquisitions and sales, to $2.06 billion in 2009 vs. 2008.

Mr. Napier said in a statement, "We performed well to meet market guidance in a tougher year than we initially expected. Aegis Media performed robustly and had excellent new-business wins. We also strengthened our balance sheet and financial position, leaving Aegis well placed to meet the challenges of 2010 which we believe will bring modest growth."

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Aegis' media arm has struggled in the Americas, where revenue fell 17.9% last year to $242 million, despite picking up new business from Procter & Gamble's Gillette. The company group hopes to push growth in the region -- particularly the U.S. -- through acquisitions this year. Its market-research network, Synovate, saw revenue climb 4.1% to $230 million (separate figures for Isobar, its digital network, are not available).

Aegis reported a strong new-business performance, bringing in $2.7 billion. Wins include global Nokia accounts and European appointments from Kellogg and Credit Agricole, along with the renewal of a contract with General Motors in Europe. Headcount at the group fell by 6%, however.

At the results meeting today, Mr. Napier confirmed that Aegis Group is not in talks with French rival Havas. Vincent Bollore, who owns 29.9% of Aegis Group, is chairman of Havas as well as a major shareholder, and has tried unsuccessfully to get his representatives on the Aegis board of directors.

Mr. Napier said the "love affair" Mr. Bollore once promised between the two companies had been played out only in the newspapers. "I haven't even had my hand held yet, let alone anything else. I'm getting rather disappointed," he said.

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