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Publicis Sees Income, Revenue Surge

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Publicis Groupe's first-half financial surge, buoyed by strong digital assets and notably improved numbers in most operating sectors, has CEO Maurice Levy proclaiming that the firm would outperform the market in 2010.

The Paris-based holding company today reported half-year net-income growth of almost 28 percent to approximately $279 million on a revenue spike of 15 percent to $3.32 billion, compared to the same period a year ago.

That translates to 95 cents per share, up from 82 cents per share in the first half of 2009. The operating margin rate for the half year was 14.5 percent, up from 13 percent in '09.

In terms of organic growth, which factors out currency fluctuations and the impact of acquisitions, revenue improved 5.3 percent in the first six months of 2010.

For the second quarter, organic growth was slightly more than 7 percent, with revenue tallying $1.8 billion.

The company's upbeat performance is in-line with that of key competitors Omnicom, which beat analysts' expectations with its most recent numbers, and Interpublic, which today reported much improved revenue and income.

In a statement, Levy noted a key growth driver: "We were quick to take the digital route, gaining a decisive lead over our competitors."

Digital unit VivaKi, along with ad networks Publicis Worldwide and Leo Burnett, have made significant gains in 2010. (David Kenny, former CEO of VivaKi and chief architect of the holding company's broader digital strategy, yesterday confirmed joining U.S. tech firm Akamai as president.)

Levy added: "Without lapsing into the euphoria that these half-year results for our group might warrant, I remain firmly convinced that Publicis Groupe will succeed in outperforming the market in terms of both growth and margin."

The firm's Zenith Optimedia media unit recently forecast a 3.5 percent full-year rise in global ad spending to $448 billion.

Look for Levy to stay aggressive, especially in China, where he has identified "a significant number of targets" as possible acquisitions.

By region, the company's Latin American ops enjoyed a 10.8 percent revenue boost in the first half, with North America and Asia-Pacific close behind, both topping 6 percent. Europe grew more than 3 percent. The lone laggard, Africa and the Middle East, dipped 3.3 percent.

Publicis said it added $2.1 billion in net new business during the first half across its operations from clients such as Aflac, Cadillac, Chrysler and Sears.