Publicis Groupe boss Maurice Levy plans a spending spree in China

Publicis Groupe boss Maurice Levy says he wants 30 per cent of the company’s earnings to come from emerging markets like China and Brazil in the next few years and, to that end, intends “to make some acquisitions in China.”

Levy was speaking after announcing strong 2010 profits for PG whose brands include Publicis, Saatchi & Saatchi, Zenith Optimedia and Razorfish. He said sales and margins had both improved in 2010, partly because a strong performance in digital new business had resulted in money coming through to the bottom line faster than it did in traditional advertising.

Levy certainly has plenty of money to spend on his planned shopping expeditions with the group holding €4.3bn in cash and debt facilities although it is stashing away €750m in case Dentsu decides to sell its remaining 11 per cent stake in PG.

Last year the company bought Johan Bjorksten’s Eastwei PR business in China as well as 49 per cent of the Talent AG agency in Brazil. It began 2011 by buying the Chemistry agency in London.

In China Levy says he’s at looking at healthcare and PR in particular. This is clearly linked to the new presence in the company of Francois Sarkozy, brother of the French president, who sold his healthcare business to PG and is now running Publicis Healthcare Consulting.

Levy is clearly determined to crash the top two positions in the world marcoms league, held by WPP and Omnicom, before he retires. In terms of numbers he’s still a long way behind but he’s shown he’s prepared to pay top dollar for bright companies in rapidly-growing markets.

WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, on the other hand, although previously the acquisition king, has been uncharacteristically cautious recently after frightening some shareholders by paying £1.1bn for research firm TNS just before the credit crunch struck in 2008.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.