Havas upbeat despite reporting revenue loss

Havas Advertising is battling with falling revenues revealing a 5.5 per cent drop to 501 million euros (£312 million) for the first quarter of the year. Revenues from its advertising operations fell by 8.1 per cent for the period.

Geographically, the hardest-hit region was Havas' North American operation, principally made up of the Euro RSCG and Arnold Worldwide networks. It saw an 8.2 per cent drop in revenue to 234.9 million euros. Its European arm declined by 4.7 per cent. Asia-Pacific, however, turned in a 12.2 per cent rise in revenue.

However, Havas' chairman and chief executive, Alain de Pouzilhac, said new-business wins for the group, which also incorporates the media network Media Planning Group, as well as WCRS and Partners BDDH in the UK, gave encouragement for the rest of the year. The group won a share of the global Reckitt Benckiser business as well as accounts such as Habitat and Prudential in the UK.

Losses included Haagen-Dazs in Europe and Pharmacia Rogaine in the US.

"The first three months of 2002 are in line with our expectations, despite a tough environment. More than ever, our strategy remains focused on developing our existing customers,

he said. Havas is predicting revenue growth of 2 per cent this year, even though the US ad market is still facing a prolonged downturn.

He denied Havas was about to make a major acquisition, saying that growth for its networks lay in organic growth. The group has recently been linked with possible bids for Aegis, Cordiant Communications or Grey Global, after losing out to WPP in a fight to buy the media network Tempus. WPP bought the company with a bid for £432 million.

Shares in the group rose shortly after the results as two banks raised their ratings. They rose 2 per cent to 8.09 euros after analysts said the stock was well-priced once Havas had denied any plans to buy Cordiant.