Published on .

May 9, 2001

By Laurel Wentz

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After a big first quarter for acquisitions, Havas Advertising today reported a 63.8% leap in billings to $3.28 billion from the first quarter of 2000.

But, discounting acquistions and currency fluctuations, billings grew by only 7.9% during the first quarter. Growth was slowest in North America and Asia, at 5% each, but reached double digits in Europe and Latin America, at 10% and 16.4%, respectively.

No more acquisitions
In a conference call with analysts, Chairman-CEO Alain de Pouzilhac said he considered it an encouraging sign that April was a strong month for new business gains.

In response to an analyst's question about whether the low share prices of True North Communications, which is in the process of being acquired by Interpublic Group of Cos., might encourage Havas to take another run at True North, Mr. de Pouzilhac initially offered his standard "no comment" on acquisition issues.

He then added, somewhat cryptically, that "everyone said one, two, three months ago that these guys [at Havas] are crazy, they're ready to acquire everything in this market. I hope we've changed the minds of these people."

Shares of Havas were at $12.89 on the Nasdaq in midday trading, down 27 cents from Tuesday's close.

Market services show gains
In keeping with Havas's three-year business plan emphasizing marketing services over traditional advertising, the company reported that traditional advertising grew by just 5% during the first quarter of 2001, compared with 10% for media and marketing services.

Havas reported that new business excluding dot-com accounts was up 4.5% over the first quarter last year, to $773 million. Mr. de Pouzilhac said that Media Planning Group had been the biggest new-business winner, with gains of $286 million, followed by Arnold Worldwide Partners with $229 million.

The 63.8% figure for total billings growth included the acquisition of Snyder Communications, the remaining 55% of Media Planning Group, and U.S. agency Black Rocket. Havas's two latest acquisitions, MarchFirst's McKinney & Silver and Simmons Durham for Arnold Worldwide Partners, were not included.

Copyright May 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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