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Aegis report sparks downward trend in
media and advertising stocks

LONDON - Advertising shares began the week with mixed fortunes today after media-buying group Aegis revealed that its 2002 growth would be flat to negative in a pre-closing statement to its full-year results to be announced in March.

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Aegis was down 0.49% in mid-afternoon trading to 102.5p following the report, which revealed that the economic crisis in Argentina would cost the company £10m.

The news appeared to have a negative impact on Cordiant Communications, which last week seemed to be leading a recovery in the sector after its shares took a pounding last year, dropping from a high of 300p. Its shares slid 0.9% today to 114p.

Huntsworth, the group ran by Lord Chadlington, founder of Shandwick Public Relations, saw its shares tumble 2.2% to 22p.

Meanwhile, WPP Group, the advertising giant headed up by Sir Martin Sorrell, saw its shares climb 2.1% to 813.5p.

In the media sector, BSkyB investors began deserting the satellite TV giant following BT's announcement that it may chase the same business model that has turned the Rupert Murdoch-backed broadcaster into a dominant force in the UK pay-TV sector.

BSkyB shares fell 3.1% to 789.5p while cable company Telewest lost 2.6% at 65.75p on the news and NTL fell 3.3% to $0.90 in New York.

Pearson, owner of the Financial Times, was down 1.95% to 856p on the news that analysts raised their earnings-per-share estimate to 30.93p from 30.62p for 2002 and cut its EPS estimate to 41.41p from 42.56p for 2003.

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