Analysts Question IPG’s Stability

Merrill Lynch on Thursday downgraded its rating of Interpublic’s stock to “sell” from “neutral” with a high risk of volatility, while Bear Stearns maintained its “peer perform” outlook. Analysts from both firms agreed that account losses such as Bank of America and General Motors’ media duties raise questions about IPG’s stability as it prepares to report long-overdue financial results, in about three weeks.

Sprite U.S. Duties Shift to CP+B

NEW YORK MDC’s Crispin Porter + Bogusky last week won U.S. duties on Coca-Cola’s Sprite after a shootout against the incumbent, WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather, the client confirmed. Spending is estimated at $45 million. The Miami shop already had creative duties on Coca-Cola Zero. Ogilvy, which also handles Coke’s Fanta, retains international duties on Sprite, as well as lead duties on Sprite Zero, the client said.

Havas: First-Half Net Income up 52%

BOSTON Havas last week reported a 52 percent increase in first-half net income to approximately $42 million on a 6.5 percent dip in revenue to $870 million, compared to the first six months of ’04. The increase had been expected, and was attributed to an overall reduction in operating expenses achieved by the December 2004 repurchase of bonds, following a rights issue last October. Havas’ profit margin improved slightly in the period, to 10.8 percent from 10.6 percent.