Bullish Maurice Lévy hails 3% growth for Publicis

LONDON - Maurice Lévy, chairman and chief executive of Publicis Groupe, has hailed the group's first quarter 3.1% organic growth as "quite remarkable", and called its foundations "much stronger than that of our competitors".

The marketing services group behind Saatchi & Saatchi, Starcom MediaVest and ZenithOptimedia, has posted revenue growth of 8.1% to €1.2bn (£1.1bn) in the first three months of the year.

The results represent a significant improvement from the fourth quarter of 2009, when organic revenue dropped 5.4%, and led to a pledge to invest in technology and talent.

Organic revenue growth has returned to all regions outside Europe, led by an increase of 9.8% in Latin America, 7.2% in the Middle East and Africa, 6.7% in Asia Pacific, and 4.8% in North America.

In an interview with business broadcaster CNBC this morning (22 April), the group leader attributed the company's return to growth to being "number one in new business" and "most of our client [s] investing more".

Lévy said spend in all major advertising sectors, including financial, automotive, retail and FMCG was up.

Meanwhile, return to organic revenue growth for operations in both France and the UK led Lévy to declare "Europe is coming back".

The underlying driving force behind the recovery was also attributed to the group's investment in digital.

Digital activities, which include Publicis Modem, Digitas and last year's $530m acquisition of Razorfish, were said to have attributed to 27% of all revenues, and digital growth of 15% in the first quarter.

Lévy said: "We have invested a lot in digital, we are clearly the number one,"

Drawing on the latest ZenithOptimedia forecast, he believes global advertising spend will exceed 2% in 2010 and that Publicis will outperform the market.

Today's results follow global rivals Omnicom and Havas reporting revenue increases of 6.3% and 1.5% respectively during the same period.

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