Publicis Groupe has been accused of underperforming, despite hailing its 2003 results as "exceptional".

The holding company -- the globe's fourth biggest agency group by 2002 revenues -- recently reported rises in net and operating income, revenue growth and a strong new business record [WAMN: 11-Mar-04], prompting ceo Maurice Levy to describe 2003 as "challenging, but wonderful".

However, industry newsletter Marketing Services Financial Intelligence argues the agency giant should be doing better. It points out that Publicis' after-tax profits rose only marginally from €147 million ($178m; £99m) in 2002 to €150m last year -- even though the company incorporated Bcom3 Group over this period.

The report also noted that the firm's post-tax income as a percentage of revenue is lower than at rivals WPP Group and Omnicom Group; and that diluted earnings per share dropped from €1.08 in 2001 to €0.75 in 2003.

Bob Willott, editor of MSFI, argues Publicis has been unduly hyping its 2003 results by claiming it hit all its business objectives. "But it has not paused to explain why it's not making the sort of profit it should be making," he said.

Levy, Willott continued, talked of improvements in profitability and the balance sheet in 2003. But at the same time, net assets fell and operating margins slipped to 14.3%, down from 14.7% in 2002.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff