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Incepta sees signs of greater momentum in early 2004

LONDON – Marketing services group Incepta has said it sees signs of greater momentum in early 2004 as it appoints former Conservative minister Francis Maude as its new chairman.

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Current chairman David Wright, founding chief executive of Citigate Communications, is to retire after three years as non-executive chairman at the end of this month to be succeeded by Maude in March.

In its year-end trading statement ahead of its February 29 full-year results Incepta said that it has experienced a patchy 2003 in the UK where an improved economic outlook failed to translate into increased levels of corporate activity and marketing spend.

The company reported that second-half revenues were broadly consistent with the first half of the year and the second half of last year but it did not experience a sustained pick-up in the levels of corporate or marketing activity, the key drivers of business in 2003.

"The second half proved patchy with no significant or sustained improvement in trading. We have experienced six months of unpredictable peaks and troughs across a number of businesses, further highlighting the lack of visibility," it said in its trading statement.

Backbench MP Maude brings a background in City and business experience to Incepta, adding the job to those he already holds including chairman of AIM-listed financial services group Prestbury Holdings. He has previously held a non-executive directorship post at Asda and was a director of Salomon Brothers and a managing director of Morgan Stanley.

Maude was first elected in 1983 and held ministerial posts at the DTI, Foreign Office and Treasury. Following the 1997 defeat he was successively shadow secretary for media, shadow chancellor and shadow foreign secretary from 2000 to 2001.

Looking ahead Incepta said there has been a marked increase in general corporate activity over the last seven weeks with an increased level of enquiries, particularly in the US and Germany and that its marketing services businesses had experienced a significant pick-up in enquiry levels since the beginning of January.

Incepta said its marketing services division continues to trade well. Dynamo, Finex and The RED Consultancy all performed well with recent client wins including Sainsbury's promotional activity linked to the Euro 2004 football championship (Dynamo); Honda UK (Sponsorship); and Canon, the BBC and Hogg Robinson (Incepta Online).

Incepta's financial and corporate communications businesses, trading globally under the Citigate brand, suffered from subdued activity in 2003 with total transaction levels in the second half lower than the first half.

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