Arthur Sadoun, Chairman and Ceo of Publicis Groupe:
“Despite a generally difficult context and the Groupe being in the midst of its own transformation, the quality of our results demonstrates Publicis Groupe’s strength and our ability to adapt to the deep changes affecting our industry. The Groupe is stronger than it was a year ago.
In the fourth quarter, organic growth reached +2.2%, continuing its sequential improvement from the beginning of the year. Organic growth rose from -1.2% in Q1 to +0.8% in Q2, and to +1.2% in Q3 2017. Over the full year, organic growth reached +0.8%, a slight improvement on 2016.
Importantly, we performed very well in the USA with organic growth of +4.5% in Q4 after +3.5% in Q3, largely driven by accounts won over the last 12 months. This sign is all the more encouraging in a country where our transformation is well advanced and where we generate over 50% of our revenue.
In 2017, we continued with our endeavors to reduce costs. Our margin rose to 15.5%, up 40 basis points over the previous year at constant restructuring costs. Operating margin in value was up at constant exchange rates. In this difficult context, we were determined to gain in competitiveness and we have clearly succeeded.
Finally, our free cash flow performance is noteworthy, rising to nearly 1.3 billion euro leading to a substantial reduction in our net debt to 727 million euro. As a result, debt related to the Sapient acquisition was significantly reduced.
I would like to thank all our people who have made this possible.
In an industry that is experiencing a fundamental upheaval, we need to further demonstrate the singularity of our model and why we are ideally positioned to partner our clients. In recent months, we reached several milestones in our transformation process.
We began by defining our vision, to become the leader in marketing and business transformation. Our offer combining data, content and technology is at the core of our clients’ needs. We are able to provide it at scale, in an integrated, seamless manner.
We are transforming ourselves from a holding company to a client-centric connecting platform, breaking down silos at country level and accelerating our own digital transformation. With Marcel, the future platform dedicated to all of Publicis Groupe’s talents and named after the Groupe’s founder, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, we are radically changing the way our people share, create and participate in Groupe projects. As we recently announced, we are also delighted to have Microsoft as partner for this ambition.
Our attractiveness in the market is underscored by new account wins such as P&G UK, Lionsgate, Southwest Airlines, L’Oréal, McDonald’s and Carrefour, but also by the arrival of new leaders such as Nick Law, the very recently appointed Groupe Chief Creative Officer. This positive momentum is further evidence that Publicis Groupe’s model is futureproof.
These early results are encouraging but there is still a lot to do. We now have solid foundations from which to build in 2018 to help our clients take on the essential challenges ahead”.