JUNKYARD DOG: Interpublic Group's credit rating slumped deeper into junk status this month after the company warned of another accounting restatement. Interpublic held the same Standard & Poor's "A" grade as Omnicom till 2001, when it disclosed slumping revenue, a net loss and massive restructuring. After Interpublic revealed accounting problems in 2002, S&P graded it junk. It now rates "BB-," facing "major ongoing uncertainties." But Interpublic cut total debt to $2.2 billion in December from $2.9 billion at year end 2001. Investors with a strong stomach could find value, betting that CEO Michael Roth will turn it around-or that Interpublic could become takeover prey.
MEDIUM LARGE: Sumner Redstone found a way to unlock the value of Viacom. His proposed breakup sent Viacom to the top of the AdMarket with a 7.5% gain. Three other media titans-Time Warner, News Corp., Disney-joined Viacom in the top five. For the week, 15AdMarket stocks were up, 34 fell and Publicis Groupe was unchanged.
No. 2 advertiser General Motors Corp. was the week's big downer, falling to its lowest point since 1993 as the Street reacted to GM profit warnings. Interpublic fell 6%; an agency stock not in the AdMarket, MDC Partners, saw its shares fall to the lowest point since 2003. MDC, part owner of Crispin Porter & Bogusky and other agencies, said its annual report would be late and that it needs more time for a Sarbanes-Oxley review of internal controls.
Advertising Age and Bloomberg's AdMarket 50 index of 50 top publicly traded marketer, agency and media companies for the week ended March 18 based on stock trading data supplied by Bloomberg financial news service. All comparisons are vs. closing prices March 11. Full data available on Bloomberg terminals under index BAAX.