Publicis Groupe Q1 net revenue up 17.1%; but organic growth sees fall of 2.9%

In the financial call for Q1 2020, Publicis Groupe reported that its net revenue was up by 17.1%, with the contribution of Epsilon. However, due to COVID-19 impact, ogranic growth fell 2.9%. Meanwhile, the leadership has announced a 30% reduction in fixed compensation for both Supervisory Board Chairman & Groupe CEO, 20% for the Management Board members. Arthur Sadoun, Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe talks about the company's performance.

It is slightly awkward to share encouraging news at a time when we are preparing ourselves for tougher days. But we actually had a good start to the year, meeting our internal objectives despite the impact of Covid-19, with an organic growth at -2.9%.

At the end of February before the pandemic started to spread, we recorded almost flat growth, despite double-digit decline in China, mostly driven by 5% organic growth in the U.S. on our creative and media business. It is worth noting that Epsilon 2.0 was also growing at +5% growth at the end of February. 

The month of March was seriously affected by the continuous decline in China and the abrupt deterioration in Europe, due to Covid-19 confinement measures. This strong negative impact was largely compensated by North America returning to growth, including Publicis Sapient which is slightly positive in the US. This performance demonstrates that our model is working.

But we are now all facing a crisis that will be unparalleled in terms of magnitude, complexity, and probably length. In these uncertain times, we haven’t waited to define our three priorities.

First and foremost, we have been focusing on protecting our people. We immediately acted to put in place the necessary infrastructure to enable all of our employees to work safely from home. We took a series of measures for their health and well-being, to keep everyone supported. We advanced the launch of our global AI platform Marcel, as it has never been so important to keep our teams across the world connected and fight the effects of isolation.

Second, we have worked around the clock to help our clients adapt to this situation. We reviewed their current and future commercial and corporate messages. We realigned their media plans to be much more dynamic, deliver short-term ROI and proposed some outcome-based products we have developed for this new market context. We are also helping them accelerate their digital capabilities to drive growth and efficiencies.

Last but not least, we are taking exceptional measures to face the coming recession and preserve a solid balance sheet. We are implementing a 500 million euro cost-reduction plan with full impact in 2020, to adapt and be recovery ready. We are asking our shareholders for solidarity with our company and our people by cutting dividends by 50% and exceptionally delaying payment until the end of September. At the same time, the Groupe’s management team has decided to reduce its fixed remuneration.

There is no doubt that we are going through an unprecedented health crisis that will lead us to the greatest recession in living memory.

It is too early to predict the full impact it will have on our clients and our business, so we will not provide any guidance.

All of our countries, all of our activities will be impacted to varying degrees. So our response to this situation needs to be structured, multi-faceted and rigorously executed. Our experience in managing cost and cash in times of crisis, our country model and our strong balance sheet will help us to stand firm in this storm and prepare ourselves for recovery.

Let me take a moment to say that our thoughts are with all of those currently suffering with the virus. I would also like to thank our clients for their partnership. And finally, I would like to express my gratitude to our people, who have demonstrated in the last weeks that we have an incredibly diverse and united team, to come out of this crisis even stronger.


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