Havas Reports Organic Growth of 5.1% in 2015 Thanks to European Business

CEO calls 2016 a 'year of acceleration'

Havas reported another year of strong organic growth under global chief Yannick Bolloré, who took over the Paris-based holding company two years ago. Havas said 2015 organic growth rose 5.1 percent for the second year in a row, up from flat growth in 2013 under previous management led by David Jones.

Group revenue was 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) in 2015. Exchange rates positively impacted the results by $171 million.

"We're over the moon with the results," Bolloré told Adweek, adding that "every division in every region is growing," and the company's positive momentum is attracting great talent.

Europe, including the U.K., is Havas' largest operating region, contributing 49 percent of the company's revenue. Despite the continent's uneven economic recovery, Havas said all of its European operations reported growth in 2015. That was led by France, which had a particularly strong fourth quarter, growing organically by 6.6 percent. The U.K. posted organic growth of 4.4 percent while Spain, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Hungary and Ireland all posted double-digit growth, Havas said.

North America, which accounts for 36 percent of Havas' revenue, reported full-year growth of 6.4 percent, driven by Havas Life, Arnold, Havas Edge and Havas Chicago. On the media front in the U.S., Havas successfully defended its largest account, Sears Holdings.

In the Asia Pacific and Latin America regions, where fast-growing markets like China and Brazil faltered last year, Havas said it still was able to post positive growth.

Looking ahead, Bolloré said he expects Havas will keep up with the industry average of 2 percent to 3 percent organic growth this year but expects to do better. "Our goal is to outperform our peers," he said.

One of the keys to that is the company's integration model, Havas Villages, which combines the network's creative, media and strategy practices under one roof. Launched four years ago, Havas implemented it in another 10 of its offices last year and plans to add it in Barcelona, Paris and London, among other locations, this year.

Bolloré credits Havas Villages for improving business at the company and vows to build upon that momentum this year.

"2016 will be a year of acceleration for us," he said, adding that Havas will continue to work hard to be more agile in meeting the needs of clients.

As for the perennial question of whether Havas—the smallest holding company among its global rivals—would be open to an industry merger, Bolloré hasn't changed his views. "There's no point in being the biggest," he said. "It's about being the best, attracting the best talent."

However, merging with a technology company could be a different story. Havas, Bolloré said, is now 60 percent owned by his family through the Bolloré Group. That's compared with 32 percent at the start of 2015. 

"I don't want to say 'yes' or 'no' because it depends on the opportunity," he said. "Two or three years ago, who would have thought Havas would be where it is today? And things like Snapchat didn't even exist then. Everything is moving so fast. I would be stupid to say 'no.'"