Publicis Groupe chairman Maurice Levy was in Cassandra mode on Tuesday when unveiling the agency giant’s numbers for the half-year to June 30.

Referring to the Iraq situation, he warned: “A war in 2003 could lead to a new oil shock, with prices of $60-$65 per barrel, and disruption to the world economy that could take one or two percentage points off global GDP.”

Levy also voiced concern over renewed terrorist activity: “A serious terrorist attack on the September 11 anniversary or in the coming days would also have a negative psychological effect for consumers, so we are in a period of uncertainty and must be cautious.”

Upbeat for a brief moment, Levy reiterated his belief that the merged Publicis/Bcom3 group could achieve operating margins of 15% in 2003. But, he reiterated: “This scenario is based on there being no war, because if there is a war, who will care? We will be in a mess, the economy will be in a mess.”

Meantime, there was some cheer in the H1 numbers. Operating margins at Publicis remained stable at 13%; while at Bcom3 they hover between 12%-13%, although this is expected to improve on the back of cost savings.

Publicis Groupe operating profits rose 2% to €152m ($148.26m; £93.37m), while net profit after amortisation of goodwill also increased, by 2% from €54m to €55m. The group had also benefited from several substantial new business wins, among them Hewlett-Packard, and Allied Domeq.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff