Holding Company Reports Improved Fourth Quarter, Stronger Ad Market

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NEW YORK ( -- Publicis Groupe reported a 20.2% increase in revenue for 2002, mainly due to its acquisition of Bcom3 Group, but revenue declines seemed to ease up late in the year as the U.S. market appeared to stabilize.

The company will not report full 2002 earnings figures until March 11.

$3.14 billion in revenue
The French agency holding company posted $3.14 billion in revenue for 2002, which included Bcom3's results since the acquisition closed on Sept. 24. After factoring out acquisitions and the effects of currency, revenues dropped 3.9%.

Publicis is the parent of ad networks Publicis Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi and Fallon Worldwide. With its acquisition of Bcom3, it now operates Leo Burnett Worldwide and D'Arcy, Masius Benton & Bowles, the latter of which Publicis has since shut down.

Fourth-quarter improvement
Publicis-only revenues -- not including Bcom3's results -- were $2.54 billion, down 2.8% due to the effects of the dollar's weakness against the euro, said Pierre Benaich, Publicis' investor relations director. But Mr. Benaich noted Publicis-only revenues were down only 1.3% in the fourth quarter, the best performance since the fourth quarter of 2001 and a sign that the advertising market appears to be stabilizing.

The improvement came from stronger than expected spending from major clients, the effect of new-business wins in the second and fourth quarters and recovery in the Latin American region, where the key Brazilian market made a comeback, Mr. Benaich said.

'Positive signs'
"There are a number of positive signs, particularly coming from the U.S.," he said.

Although he admitted the threat of war adds an element of uncertainty, he said conversations with U.S. executives show "encouraging signs." Publicis-only North American revenue rose 2.5% in the fourth quarter, the region's best performance in 18 months, Mr. Benaich said.

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