UPDATE 1-Havas sales lifted by digital, overseas markets

Wed Nov 7, 2012 12:26pm EST

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PARIS Nov 7 (Reuters) - French advertising agency Havas said sales rose 11 percent in the third quarter, helped by strong growth from its digital business.

Revenue was 428 million euros ($546 million) in the three months to Sept. 30, the company said in a statement on Wednesday, with growth accelerating in the Americas and Asia-Pacific while slowing in Europe.

"The macro-economic environment continues to be challenging," Havas Chief Executive David Jones said in the statement, adding that the group had increased its share of a flagging European market.

"Digital continues to accelerate and is an increasingly important driver of the business," he said.

The firm secured new business worth 304 million euros in the quarter, with clients including Coca-Cola and insurer AXA .

Analysts had expected sales of 421 million euros and organic growth of 2 percent for the quarter, according to a poll of 6 estimates.

Like larger rivals Publicis, WPP and Omnicom, Havas' growth was hurt by lower marketing spending by big companies, especially in continental Europe and the U.K., where it earns about 53 percent of its revenues.

What had been hailed as a banner year for the advertising industry, with the U.S Presidential elections and Olympic Games meant to boost growth, is ending on a sour note as big companies take a wait-and-see attitude to their year-end marketing budgets.

Advertising spending generally tracks economic growth, so slowdowns in world markets tend to have a knock-on effect for advertising agencies.

Market research group ZenithOptimedia scaled back its target for growth in global advertising spending this year to 3.8 percent from the 4.3 percent it predicted in June.

Havas shares have risen nearly 21 percent this year to reach 3.85 euros at Wednesday's close, before the sales announcement. That compares with an 11.6 percent gain by the Stoxx Europe 600 Media index.

($1 = 0.7840 euros) (Reporting by Leila Abboud; Editing by Christian Plumb)

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