French communications group Havas reported organic growth (excluding acquisitions) of 5.1% for 2014, with revenue of $2.1 billion and net new business of $2.5 billion for the year.
But organic growth slowed in the fourth quarter to 3.5%. Revenue was $627 million and new business totaled $626 million.
Growth in Europe reached 4.4% for the full year, but was flat in the fourth quarter of 2014. This morning, Havas announced a major hire with the appointment of Chris Hirst, the highly-regarded CEO of WPP's Grey London office, for the new position of CEO of the Havas Creative Group in the U.K. and Europe.
Yannick Bolloré, chairman and CEO of Havas, said on a call with analysts, "Europe is almost 50% of our revenue ... Chris Hirst is a star. It's great proof that great talent wants to join us. Our people will feel even prouder to be part of this journey when they see such senior talent that will come and lead us in the future."
Mr. Hirst has overseen a transformation at Grey London, which has reinvented itself as a creative agency and won some major accounts under his stewardship. New business wins include Vodafone's $80 million business just last week, after picking up the global lead on Volvo from Havas' Arnold Worldwide in December 2013.
Havas poached another senior WPP figure in January, hiring Y&R New York's chief creative officer, Jim Elliott, to the newly-created role of global chief creative officer at Arnold Worldwide.
Mr. Bolloré said, "When I first started at Havas five years ago it was not that easy to attract talent. I have seen a turnaround in the last couple of years and now a lot of very senior talent wants to be part of Havas… When you are living in very disruptive times you need to be able to adapt."
North America saw organic growth of 5.4% for the year and 7.3% in the fourth quarter, boosted by a number of big account wins including Dish Network, Dove Mencare, NetJets, LVMH, Emirates, Paypal, and Liberty Mutual. Havas Worldwide in New York and Chicago, and Havas Media North America were singled out as particularly strong performers in the region.
In Asia Pacific and Africa, growth reached 10.8% for the year, driven mostly by Australia and the Middle East, while Latin America's 5.2% growth was described in a Havas statement as "satisfactory... mainly thanks to a strong performance from Brazil."
Havas reported 1.1% growth for its home market France, despite a "slackening" in the fourth quarter. In the U.K., organic growth reached 9% thanks to a strong first half of the year, driven by media, data and healthcare communications. The rest of Europe grew 3.9% in 2014, up from a 2.7% decline during the same period the previous year, despite a slower fourth quarter.
Havas made six acquisitions last year, including Work Club in London. "We are very satisfied with the way they have been integrated," Mr. Bolloré said, "And we will continue on this path. We have nothing in the pipeline that is transformational but we will still look at companies with great talent that can add value to our existing network. We are less cautious and more optimistic than we used to be."
Asked about prospects for France in 2015, Mr. Bolloré said that he thought French international companies would do well because of the weaker dollar and lower oil prices, and referenced the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris when he said, "The year has started with mixed feelings. After the terrorist attacks, we had some men with guns guarding our buildings. We can see that there is more confidence now, but a lot of it is relief."
In an indication of the influence of Havas' majority shareholder Bollore Groupe, which is involved in the electric car business, Havas noted that the company has a fleet of electric cars for business trravel and recently introduced electric shuttle buses between the Havas office and public transit stations.