Publicis Ended 2014 on a Growth Spurt and Expects to Keep the Momentum Going

Sapient integration will be 'the big story of 2015,' Lévy says

Publicis Groupe grew significantly in the last quarter of 2014, ending the year with $9.62 billion in revenue, good enough to maintain its No. 3 position among ad holding companies.

Net income for all of '14, however, fell 9 percent to $815 million, due in part to costs related to acquisitions and the company's failed merger with Omnicom Group.

Revenue grew about 12 percent in the fourth quarter and 4 percent for the year, the company said today. On an organic basis, however, the growth was modest: 3 percent for the quarter and 2 percent for the full year. In comparison, the No. 2 player, Omnicom Group, posted organic growth of 6 percent for both Q4 and all of '14. Market leader WPP Group won't report its results for another four weeks.

In a statement, Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Lévy acknowledged that the organic growth rates "did not live up to our expectations." That said, he touted the company's $3.7 billion acquisition of Sapient, predicting that the digital giant will become a major growth driver this year.

"The big story of 2015 will … be the integration of Sapient," Lévy said. "2015 will also be the year we return to more satisfactory levels of growth, gradually at first, with a more marked pickup in the second half-year, before reaching our full capacity in 2016."

The Paris-based company, whose top agencies include Leo Burnett, Starcom and DigitasLBi, expects low single-digit revenue growth this year (between 3 percent and 3.5 percent), in line with the prediction of Omnicom CEO John Wren, Levy's would-be merger partner.

Omnicom and Publicis Groupe had planned to combine to create a $23 billion powerhouse, but the plan disintegrated amid battles about which company's executives would assume the top jobs. So, the Franco-American union was called off in May 2014.