Move Covers Period Until Third-Quarter Earnings Release

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Interpublic Group of Cos. this week canceled all previously scheduled meetings with brokerage firms and institutional investors between now and its third-quarter earnings release Nov. 11, Advertising Age has learned.

Wall Street analysts said they were not sure why the agency company canceled the meetings, including one Chairman-CEO David Bell was said to be having with Capital Research & Management, the largest shareholder with an 11.7% stake. But the move came as Interpublic reorganizes its investor-relations function following the departure of Susan Watson, senior vice president of investor relations, whose duties were assumed by Interpublic's Financial Relations Board unit.

Declined comment
Ms. Watson had scheduled the meetings before she left. An Interpublic spokesman declined to comment.

Mr. Bell, who took his post in February, and Interpublic's chief operating officer and chief financial officer, Christopher Coughlin, who joined Interpublic in June, have been working to rebuild credibility with Wall Street following a series of financial restatements and other setbacks last year.

Since Mr. Bell's appointment, Interpublic stock has climbed 48% in a rebounding sector. During that period, Omnicom Group, the sector's strongest company, rose 47% while Publicis Groupe and WPP Group jumped 79% and 61%, respectively.

Volatile shares
But Interpublic shares have been volatile; year-to-date, Interpublic is basically flat while the three rivals all are up by double-digit percentages.

Interpublic's price swings partly reflect significant trading volume -- number of shares traded each day -- as hedge-fund investors and others move in and out of the stock, which some investors view as undervalued. Hedge funds operate with limited regulations and manage portfolios for large investors.

Trading peak
Interpublic share trading speaks volumes: 51 of the stock's 100 highest days of trading volume have occurred this year, according to an Advertising Age analysis of Interpublic trading for the past 15 years. Three of those days occurred this week: 7.9 million shares traded Oct. 14, followed by volume of 6.1 million and 5.3 million shares over the next two days. Analysts and observers pointed to various rumors but couldn't offer a definitive reason for the activity.

Interpublic has 391.4 million outstanding shares; 7.9 million shares is equivalent to 2% of the company.

The stock price has fluctuated amid the high trading volume this week, but Oct. 16's close ($14.31) was little changed from the closing price Oct. 13 ($14.26)before all the trading -- and up just slightly from where it started the year ($14.08).

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