UPDATE 2-Interpublic hopes to return to growth this year, shares up

Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:31pm EST

* Fourth-quarter revenue $2.06 bln vs est $2.07 bln

* Adjusted earnings/share $0.56 vs est $0.53

* Shares rise more than 3 pct

By Sruthi Ramakrishnan

Feb 22 (Reuters) - Interpublic Group of Cos, home to advertising agencies McCann Erickson and Draftfcb, said it expected to return to growth this year after revenue declined in 2012 due to the loss of big accounts including Microsoft Corp's North America media-buying business.

Interpublic, whose shares were up more than 3 percent in morning trading on Friday, said it expected to increase organic revenue by 2-3 percent in 2013 to bring its growth into line with that of its peers, which include Omnicom Group Inc and France's Publicis Groupe SA.

Revenue fell 0.8 pct in 2012 after the second-biggest U.S. advertising and marketing group lost the Microsoft business as well as the entire marketing account for household products company SC Johnson & Son Inc.

Wedbush analyst James Dix said Interpublic seemed to be banking on markets such as the Asia Pacific region and Latin America to deliver growth this year.

In 2012, revenue from Asia Pacific eclipsed Continental Europe's contribution for the first time, a milestone that Chief Executive Michael Roth termed "a pretty big statement".

Asia Pacific was the only geographic region to grow in the fourth quarter and accounted for 12 percent of revenue for the full year, eclipsing 11.8 percent from Continental Europe.

"We are not assuming a big recovery in Europe," Roth said, echoing the bleak outlook of the company's rivals.

Dix noted that Interpublic's peers themselves were growing at a low single-digit percentage rate. "Those peer levels are not particularly robust at the moment," he said.

Larger rival Omnicom reported a better-than-expected profit earlier this month on higher revenue in the U.S. market, but said uncertainty in some markets would continue to pressure advertising spending.

Publicis Groupe also said last week that 2013 would be difficult, especially in Europe.

Interpublic's revenue slipped to $2.06 billion in the fourth quarter from $2.07 billion a year earlier. Revenue from the United States fell 0.6 percent to $1.03 billion.

Net income rose to $313.3 million, or 68 cents per share, from $259 million, or 50 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding the impact of the sale of its stake in Facebook Inc during the quarter, Interpublic earned 56 cents per share. The company sold its remaining 0.2 percent stake in Facebook for $95 million in November.

Analysts on average expected earnings of 53 cents per share on revenue of $2.07 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Interpublic shares were up 3.4 percent at $12.67 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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