Y&R to huddle with analysts

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The pursuit of Young & Rubicam, New York, by WPP Group, London--now reportedly down to agreeing on a price--may take another twist on April 27, when Y&R executives talk with analysts before the company releases its earnings. A meeting with investors is scheduled for May 12 in New York. Meanwhile, WPP announced strong first-quarter results, with revenue up 20% from a year ago to $882.5 million, aided by the recovery of economies in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Net new business for the quarter rose 19% to $878 million. WPP executives noted the latest results show the company is on track to meet its goal of increasing its operating profit margin to 14% from 13.6% in 1999.

In other Y&R-related activity, an official at Harte-Hanks on April 26 refused to comment on reports that it has had recent talks about being acquired by Y&R. "I don't think we have anything to say about that," said Jacques Kerrest, chief financial officer at the San Antonio-based direct marketing company. "We never comment about merger talks. I can tell you that we are shareholder oriented. We always have been." Harte-Hanks reported $829.8 million in revenue last year and net income of $72.9 million. Direct marketing--including substantial database and interactive work--accounts for about 70% of the company's revenue. Harte-Hanks works with several pharmaceutical clients including Abbott Laboratories, American Home Products Corp. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. The company's Shoppers and Penny Savers advertising mailer business accounted for $279.5 million in 1999 revenue. A Y&R acquisition of Harte-Hanks could make it more difficult for WPP to acquire the agency company by making Y&R larger and more expensive to buy. Harte-Hanks also would increase Y&R's database capabilities and ease pressure to become part of a larger organization like WPP to gain access to such resources. Y&R's stock closed down 2-1/8 points, or 4.09%, on April 26 to 49-7/8; WPP closed 3-7/8 points, or 5.12%, higher at 79-5/8.

Copyright April 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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