Advertising Companies Forcast a Strong 2004

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NEW YORK ( -- Two European companies posted strong results for 2003 and anticipated a strong 2004, thanks in large part to the U.S. market.

Publicis Groupe reported a modest increase in net income and a sharp increase in revenue in 2003. Company management credited the rise to the successful integration of Bcom3 Group after its 2002 acquisition by Publicis.

Publicis, a French agency holding company, is the parent of Leo Burnett Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide and Zenith Optimedia.

Publicis posted net income of $188.4 million, up 2% from last year, on revenues of $4.85 billion, up 30%. Revenue grew 2% for the year on an organic basis, after factoring out acquisitions and the effects of currency fluctuations. Organic revenue growth also showed an improvement during the year, from a drop of 1.2% in the first quarter to a gain of 5.2% in the fourth.

Solid media spending
Meanwhile, U.K.-based Aegis Group reported 2003 net income of $37.5 million, up 61.1% on revenues of $1.15 billion, a 9.6% increase from 2002, or 4.7% on an organic basis. Executives at Aegis -- parent of media agencies Carat and Vizeum and market researcher Synovate -- said the record results were helped by solid spending on media in the U.S. and Asia Pacific markets, as well as improvement in European markets.

"The order books are somewhat fatter this year than they were at the beginning of 2003," CEO Douglas Flynn said. In a conference call with analysts, he said Aegis' own spending forecasts for 2004 were revised up by one percentage point since December, given the unexpected strength in media spending among marketers who have begun to beef up their budgets.

Mr. Flynn warned, though, that after the generous media spending spurred by the upcoming Summer Olympics and the U.S. presidential election, there could be a letdown in 2005. Growth could slow next year due to the expected increase in interest rates and the "surprising coincidence" of tighter U.S. fiscal policy after the elections, he said. Mr. Flynn's remarks echoed similar thoughts from WPP Group chief executive Martin Sorrell last month.

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