PUBLICIS TO PAY WPP $125 MILLION FOR ZENITH STAKE

Final Price Tag to Reach $142 Million for Media Services Company

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Publicis Groupe will likely pay the full price of 75 million British pounds, or $125.5 million, to acquire the 25% stake in Zenith Optimedia it doesn't already own, Publicis' chairman-CEO, Maurice Levy, said.

Earlier verbal agreement
At a meeting with analysts today, Mr. Levy said he had reached a verbal agreement with WPP Group's chief executive, Martin Sorrell, on June 16 to acquire Cordiant Communications Group's stake in Zenith for $106.7 million (63.75 million pounds) but was later informed that WPP would hold Publicis to the $125.5 million price agreed in its contract with Cordiant.

The final price tag for the media

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services company will reach $101 million (85 million euros), including another $12 million (10 million euros) for ancillary operations in Asia and other regions, Mr. Levy said.

London-based WPP bought Cordiant in June, offering Cordiant's shareholders $17 million and assuming the company's debt of $410 million. The deal became final Aug. 1.

WPP spokespeople were not available at press time.

Quarterly revenue growth
At the same meeting, Publicis posted its first quarterly organic revenue growth -- factoring out acquisitions and currency -- in nearly two years, helped by strong performance in the U.S. Revenue for the second quarter rose 59% to $2.11 billion, thanks to the acquisition of Bcom3 Group last September. After factoring out acquisitions and currency fluctuations, revenue still increased 1.2%, the first quarterly increase since the fourth quarter of 2001.

Publicis, a Paris-based ad company, is parent of agency networks Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis Worldwide and Leo Burnett Co.

The North American region, Publicis' largest revenue source, showed 80.1% growth in revenue, or 4.6% on an organic basis. Europe, the second-largest contributor, rose 37.9%, but was down 2.4% on an organic basis.

"America is definitely picking up," said Mr. Levy. Europe, on the other hand, is still showing spotty improvement, with the French market continuing to decline and the outlook for the region is still uncertain, he said.

Upbeat forecast
The outlook for the rest of the year is upbeat, with the U.S. continuing to show improvement, offset by the uncertainty in Europe, Mr. Levy said. Publicis will report full first-half results Sept. 10.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the sale price for Zenith Optimedia in euros, not pounds.

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