Interpublic Group, the world's second largest agency holding company, on Tuesday reported a net loss of $451.7 million (€367.71; £248.47m) for the twelve months to December 2003.
The deficit in the final quarter accounted for $102.5m of the year's red ink, despite increased Q4 revenues of $1.63 billion (+5.7%). For the year as a whole, revenues rose 2.2% to $5.86bn.
On an organic basis, however, excluding asset sales and currency fluctuations, revenue was down 1.1% for the quarter and 3.6% for the year.
According to chief financial officer Christopher Coughlin, the greater part of the loss is due to Interpublic's continuing reorganization. He told analysts that in Q4 IPG posted net income of $125.3m before taxes. Against this the group took a hit of $175.6 million in restructuring charges.
In all, these charges are expected to total $250 million and Coughlin expects to absorb the remainder during the first half of 2004. Future restructuring will focus on Europe where IPG has been notching losses while making money on its US operations.
The cfo also reported progress in reducing debt, down from $1.7bn in December 2002 to $469m a year later. The group raised $693 million from the sale of stock and other equity during Q4 2003 plus a further $99 million from the sale of its stakes in Modem Media and TNS.
Chairman/ceo David Bell was cautiously upbeat: "As I see it, the first phase of the turnaround is coming to a close" and Interpublic is now going into "a period of growth," he said, while declining to put a value on new business won in 2003.
Although Interpublic enters 2004 in a stronger position, Bell warned that it is only six months into what is likely to be a 24-36 months period of restructuring. The process "will not be a linear one ... there may be stutter steps," Bell cautioned.
Data sourced from: AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff