Publicis Q2 organic growth speeds up to 5 pct

PARIS, July 18 Thu Jul 18, 2013 1:36am EDT

PARIS, July 18 (Reuters) - France's Publicis saw sales growth accelerate sharply to 5 percent in the second quarter, helped by robust demand for online marketing services and strength in North America.

The world's third-biggest advertising agency narrowed its annual target for organic growth to 3.6 percent from between 3.2 and 3.6 percent.

"The results are good but it has not been easy and we must remain vigilant since there is a lot of uncertainty in the world economy," said Chief Executive Maurice Levy.

"Emerging markets are in slight retreat, the U.S. is holding up well, while Europe remains in search of growth."

First-half sales rose 8.7 percent to 3.35 billion euros ($4.39 billion), in-line with analysts' expectations. Operating profit rose 11.6 percent to 462 million euros, which was ahead of the Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S average of 440 million.

The operating margin was 13.8 percent in the half, an improvement from last year's 13.4 percent, helped by continued cost cuts in everything from real estate to technology.

The pick-up seen at Publicis, which comes after a relatively slow first quarter, may bode well for the results of market leader WPP and number two Omnicom, due in the coming weeks. (Reporting by Leila Abboud; Editing by James Regan)