Omnicom Group, the world’s third largest agency holding company, announced Tuesday fourth-quarter net income up year-on-year by 22.8% to $201.5 million (€187.67m; £127.97m) from $164.1 million.

In terms of earnings-per-share this equates to $1.08 versus $0.87. Revenues too rose, up by 7.5% from $1.97 billion a year ago to $2.12 billion.

The robust top-line results, however, conceal a trend that has investors and analysts twitching – a weakening in operating margin, down one percentage point to 15.7% in the fourth quarter and 14.7% for 2002 as a whole. Omnicom is not alone in this respect. The most recent results from its peers – WPP, Interpublic and Publicis – have all reflected a similar weakening in margins.

[For high-school dropouts contemplating a career as investment bank media analysts, operating margin is calculated by dividing operating profit by net sales – and is seen as a yardstick of corporate efficiency.]

Omnicom ceo John Wren also dusted down his crystal ball for the current year: “I think there's a fair amount of pent-up demand. We’ll start to see that after the clouds fade and the immediate geopolitical concerns fade away a little bit.”

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff