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Havas reports surge in profits as it watches Aegis

LONDON - Profits at Havas have surged ahead 81% to €83m (£63.4m), as the group continues to circle UK marketing services group Aegis.

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Net income for Havas rose to €83m, ahead of predicted profits of €82.3m. The French-owned group, which was last month linked with reigniting its bid to acquire Aegis Group, had reported organic growth of 9.8% in the fourth quarter and 7.1% for the full year.

The organic growth rate is at its highest since 2000 with the fourth quarter proving to be the strongest of the year. Organic growth in quarter one had been just 3.2%.

Fernando Rodes Vila, chief executive officer, said the group was "optimistic" about its 2008 growth and the first two months of the year were in line with average growth for 2007.

He said: "We have a room for manoeuvre to pursue the improvement in operating margin before exceptionals in 2008 and we continue to expect to reach a margin topping the sector's average in 2010."

Havas said stronger organic revenue growth, which was 7.1% for the period, had occurred across all regions and group businesses were bolstered by major international account wins in 2006 and 2007.

The group, which owns advertising agency Euro RSCG and media agency MPG, won accounts for BNP Paribas and Kraft Foods in the last year. Its total new business growth for the period was €1.5bn.

Yesterday, MPG won the £20m Nationwide Building Society media account.

Meanwhile, the group reduced debts to €226m, from €382m in 2006.

Havas chairman Vincent Bollore, who is the largest shareholder of Aegis, said that he is waiting for the British group to report its annual results before making a new move.

According to a report in French daily Le Figaro, Bollore said: "We did not ask for a new shareholders meeting in order not to stir things up. But we are waiting for the annual results on March 19 to react.

"If they (the results) disappoint and if Aegis chief executive Robert Lerwill continues to say that everything is going well, it will be like heading for a brick wall while blaring your horn."

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