Publicis records increase in sales

French advertising group Publicis said yesterday that clients were spending more money this year and that its sales were on the rise in February and March.

The world's third-largest advertising group by revenue was looking for small and mid-sized acquisitions but could also return more money to shareholders through buybacks or other options, said Chairman and CEO Maurice Levy.

Levy also dismissed speculation Publicis wanted to acquire US rival Interpublic, reiterating his group's strategy to expand in digital and emerging markets. "We have no discussions currently with IPG," he said.

"We have the good news of the numbers for February. What we have seen since the fourth quarter is an improvement in revenue. Most of our clients are spending more money. I believe 2010 will be a positive year," he said.

"What we are seeing for March is also very positive," he added.

Last month, Publicis said the worst of the economic downturn that hit its 2009 earnings was past and that it aimed to return to sales growth this year and achieve stable margins. There has been recurrent speculation that Publicis could be interested in buying Interpublic, with Martin Sorrell the CEO of British arch-rival WPP suggesting it would make sense for Publicis to merge with the US company.

"I know there is one of my dearest competitors who is really eyeing Publicis as a potential acquirer of IPG [Interpublic]. I am not sure that IPG is for sale. I have not got any sign of this and anyway we have a strategy which is to strengthen our position in digital and emerging markets," he said.

Publicis last month said profit dropped 9.8 per cent in 2009 as the ad market slumped during the economic slowdown. Net income for the year fell to €403 million from €447m in 2008. Sales dropped 3.8 per cent to €4.52 billion.


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