February 6, 2020 / 6:46 AM / 13 days ago

Publicis confirms 2020 outlook after results meet expectations

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Publicis group is seen at the high profile startups and high tech leaders gathering, Viva Tech,in Paris, France May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - Publicis (PUBP.PA), the world’s third-biggest advertising company, reported quarterly results in line with expectations after a series of disappointments but stressed the road ahead would be bumpy in a sector shaken up by U.S. tech giants.

The French company is banking on being able to run digital campaigns for clients in addition to its traditional creative ads as competition from Facebook (FB.O) and Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) continues to squeeze revenue.

Publicis, which recently spent $4 billion on data-focused marketing business Epsilon and has been integrating its digital arm Publicis.Sapient, downgraded its targets twice last year.

“The market is moving in a direction that matches the vision that has been developed over the past several months,” Chief Executive Arthur Sadoun told reporters in a call.

It confirmed its outlook for 2020 saying underlying sales would be somewhere in the range of down 2% to up 1%, helping to push up its shares up by more than 4% in early trading.

The company, which competes against bigger rivals WPP (WPP.L) and Omnicom (OMC.N), said fourth-quarter underlying sales dropped 4.5% from a year earlier to 2.87 billion euros ($3.2 billion) as major clients continued to slash spending.

Underlying sales growth for 2019 fell 2.3%, in line with its expectations and slightly above the average analyst forecast.

Sadoun said Google’s recent decision to restrict advertising software companies and other organizations from connecting their browser cookies was a sign that the investment in Epsilon, which processes large pools of data, was the right move.

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by David Clarke

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