IPG Suffers an ’03 Loss of $452 Mil.

NEW YORK Interpublic Group today reported a loss of $102.5 million in the fourth quarter as the holding company continued its restructuring efforts. Revenue in the period rose 5.7 percent to $1.6 billion. On a constant currency basis, revenue increased less than 1 percent.

For the full year, IPG posted a loss of $451.7 million on a 2.2 percent gain in revenue of $5.9 billion. On a constant currency basis, revenue dropped 2.4 percent.

In the fourth quarter, IPG recorded charges, associated with its restructuring activities, of $40.6 million, of which $7.4 million are included in office and general expenses. The company took non cash-investment impairment charges of $42.7 million, primarily related to some international investments in which IPG owns minority interests. IPG also reported a non-cash charge of $38 million related to the sale of four UK automobile racing tracks, which had been part of its Brands Hatch Circuits units. The tracks had been sold for about $26 million.

Organic revenue decreased 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter and 3.6 percent for the year, compared to the year-earlier periods.

“Regrettably, a number of our companies didn’t perform well on the client retention front and this dragged down our overall organic revenue performance for the quarter,” IPG CEO David Bell said, during a Tuesday morning conference call with industry analysts.

IPG’s operating margin for the quarter improved to 9.2 percent, compared to the a margin of 6.7 percent in the year-earlier quarter. Excluding restructuring charges and asset impairment charges, the company’s operating margin for the quarter improved to 14.3 percent, compared to a margin of 7.2 percent in Q4 2002.

“There is still much to be done in terms of improving our margins and greater discipline is required within a number of our operating units, but I am encouraged by our progress in this area,” Bell said.

In above-average volume trading, IPG’s stock closed Tuesday at $16.93, up nearly 3 percent from Monday’s close of $16.47. The trading volume exceeded 7.4 million, more than twice the average of 3.3 million.

This story updates an item posted earlier today with quotes from David Bell.