Publicis Groupe Posts Improved Financials

NEW YORK Publicis Groupe, boosted by strong new business growth and the completion of Bcom3’s integration into the holding company, reported a 2 percent rise in 2003 net income to $194 million, compared to 2002. Diluted earnings per share, before goodwill amortization, dipped about 10 percent to $1.71.

Revenue rose 32 percent to $5.3 billion. Paris-based Publicis said billings rose 30 percent to $45.3 billion, with a gain of net new business of $4 billion.

Operating income rose nearly 30 percent, totaling $688 million.

Organic growth, on a constant currency basis, rose 2 percent, helped by a 5.2 percent surge in the fourth quarter. That contrasts with a decline of 1.2 percent in the first quarter.

Publicis posted a 15.3 percent operating margin in the second half, exceeding company CEO Maurice Levy’s stated objective of attaining a 15 percent margin. For the year, Publicis reported a 14.3 percent margin.

The company also reported a proposed 8.3 percent dividend hike to 32 cents a share.

Looking forward, Levy said in a statement that the company intends “to grow faster than our competitors, to solidly establish a sustainable margin of 15 percent and to improve our financial structure.”