Publicis Groupe still struggling in first three pre-virus months of 2020

Publicis Groupe has announced its mostly pre-Covid-19 numbers for the first quarter of 2020 – net revenue up 17.1 per cent with a full contribution from $4.4bn data business Epsilon but organic growth of minus 2.9 per cent, in line with forecasts the agency group says but rather worse than the minus two per cent markets expected.

Publicis says that North America, where it struggled last year, was coming back to growth (this was before the virus struck the US.) The virus had some impact on China and Europe, which may have contributed to some of the minus 2.9 per cent.

Publicis is cutting costs by €500m, halving the dividend to €1.15 and reducing CEO Arthur Sadoun and chairman Maurice Levy’s pay by 30 per cent (other management board members are taking a 20 per cent cut.)

As Publicis had previously announced (along with its holding company peers) there is no further guidance as they steer into the uncharted waters of Covid-19.

Do the first three months matter? On an organic level they’re not good (down 2.9 per cent) although it looks like Epsilon made money.

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