Publicis Groupe net up 21.8%

MUMBAI: The 2003 fiscal was a good year for Publicis Groupe SA. The communications major has posted a 21.8 per cent hike in the net profit for the 2003 fiscal on the back of healthy revenues.



Net profit (before goodwill) up 21.8% to 263m euros

Group revenue up 32% to  3.86b euros

Organic growth up 2%

Operating income up 29% at  553m euros

Operating margin up 90 basis points at 14.3%

The group clocked revenues of 3.86 billion euros for the year 2003, which is an increase of 32 per cent over revenues in 2002. On a fully-comparable basis and constant exchange rates, organic growth is up 2 per cent for the entire year.

The media heavy weight's operating income for the 2003 fiscal is up 29 per cent at 553 million euros. The operating margin for the year stood at 14.3 per cent vis-?-vis 13.4 per cent for 2002 - an increase of 90 basis points. According to the statement, other communication groups have reported operating margins between 8.3 per cent and 13.5 per cent in 2003.

The company has also continued to strengthen its balance sheet.

Net debt reduced by 164m euros

Over 1b euros total credit facilities available as at 31 Dec 2003

The net debt of the group reduced significantly from 1.33 billion euros at 31 December 2002 (and which had reached its highest level at 1.553 billion euros at 30 June 2003) to 1.166 billion euros at 31 December 2003.

The ratio of net debt to equity was at 91 per cent at the year- end, and at 71 per cent at constant exchange rates. Lines of available credit at the end of 2003 stood at slightly over 1 billion euros. The Groupe had signed a three year syndicated credit facility 'Club Deal' for 700 million euros.

The merger of Publicis Groupe, Somarel, MLMS, and MLMS2 that was effected on 15 May 2003, has simplified the shareholding structure of the Groupe, which, as at 31 December 2003, was composed as below in terms of voting rights:

18.8% for Elisabeth Badinter,

16.6% for Dentsu (capped to 15%) and

64.6% for the public.

Net new business volume at 3.4b euros

'Focus on Cash' program generated 445m euros in the 2nd half

Gross cash flow up 19.8% at 471m euros

8.3% ( 0.26) rise in proposed dividend

The working capital saw a total inflow of 232 million euros over the year. This improvement, outside of seasonal factors in the second half, represents one of the first effects of the Groupe-wide program 'Focus on Cash' aimed at improving working capital liquidity, a company statement claims.

The Groupe won new business to the tune of 3.4 billion euros during the year placing it as number one worldwide in net new business for the year. At the Cannes Advertising Festival of 2003, Publicis Groupe had walked away with 47 Lions and ended second with 255 points.

Commenting on the next steps, Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy said in the statement, "Our objectives remain client-focused-an absolute commitment to bringing clients the most complete services, adapted to their specific needs, through lean and flexible structures; to grow faster than our competitors; to solidly establish a sustainable operating margin of 15 per cent and to improve our financial structure."

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