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Havas revenues fall again but Europe returns to growth

LONDON - Havas has seen revenues fall again with a 3.8% drop in organic revenues for the last quarter of the year to €436m, below analyst expectations and 15% short of last year's reported figure.

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Full-year revenues at the company, owner of Euro RSCG Worldwide and the Media Planning Group, fell by 17.2% from €1.99bn (£1.35bn) to €1.66bn.

Havas said that in the fourth quarter there had been a return to growth in Europe, excepting the UK. There was also a positive trend in Latin America and the US, but Asia Pacific was down.

The company has reported today that its restructuring plans were now complete. It said that 19 agencies had been integrated into Euro RSCG Worldwide and that eight companies had been closed, with the company headcount being reduced by 1,000.

The restructure was announced by chairman and CEO Alain de Pouzilhac on September 18 last year. In a statement released today the company said: "The success of the strategic reorganisation, combined with significant new accounts, reduced costs, opportunities with existing clients and deep talent within the organisation enable Havas to approach 2004 with confidence."

Shares in the company, listed on the Paris Bourse, were trading down this morning by 2.4% at €4.95.

Fortunes at rival French advertising firm Publicis Groupe could not have contrasted more. The company reported better-than-expected revenues in the fourth quarter, with organic growth up by 5.2% to €1.02bn. Europe showed growth for the first time last year but lagged behind other regions at only 1.9%. This compared with 6.6% organic growth in North America, 9% in Asia Pacific and 17.5% in Latin America.

Full-year revenues for Publicis were €3.86bn and the company won more new business than any other of the major marketing communications groups in the last quarter of 2003. This included Leo Burnett winning the worldwide Big Mac account and Wella; and Starcom MediaVest winning Coca-Cola in the US and Cadbury Schweppes in the UK and Spain.

Shares in Publicis, also on the Paris Bourse, were trading up by 2.8% at €29.50 this morning.

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