Interpublic Group of Cos Earnings Call Insights: Second-Quarter Wins and European Competitors

Interpublic Group of Cos Inc (NYSE:IPG) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Second-Quarter Wins

Alexia Quadrani – JPMC: Just a couple of questions. First, you mentioned that the headwinds of, I guess, 2% still hitting the second quarter from losses last year. Was there any incremental benefit, I guess, in the second quarter that was a bit of an offset from your sort of bigger headline wins like Chevy, or is that really going to impact starting in Q3?

Michael I. Roth – Chairman and CEO: Well, first of all, obviously, we do have revenue in the second quarter from the new wins. But as we indicated, we’re ramping up on the employee base and costs associated with that win. So, we don’t see a lot of incremental margin in the second quarter. Frankly, that’s one of the reasons we have a drag on margin in the second quarter, because we’ve added to our employee base. Just to give you a perspective, our employee base and headcount exceeded by – we added in this quarter a couple of hundred employees, so we won’t see that impact until the third and fourth quarters. So there was some revenue, but not big margin improvement.

Alexia Quadrani – JPMC: But if you’re going to take a look at the third quarter – and Michael, I have to ask about the third quarter.

Michael I. Roth – Chairman and CEO: What took you so long, Alexia?

Alexia Quadrani – JPMC: Taking a look at that, I mean, would you expect, with the headwinds coming off, maybe more of a benefit to the top line with some of the bigger account wins maybe coming on board, would you expect a pick-up? And then I guess more specifically, on the weakness you saw in Europe in the month of June, I guess, any color you can give us on that, any one-time-ish in nature do you think it will continue to be a bigger drag for the full quarter in Q3?

Michael I. Roth – Chairman and CEO: Well, if you do the math, obviously, with our first half year results, we’re expecting improvement in our margin in the second half as well as an increase in revenue because of our new business win. And frankly some new business wins we hope to announce in the third quarter. So that’s how – and the reason we were able to affirm what we said in terms of our objective of 2% to 3% organic and an increase of 50 margin points, if you will. So, yes, we think the second half – and traditionally, our second half is stronger on the revenue side and we convert in the second half of the year. So, that is the reason we’re affirming, if you will. As far as Europe, as we indicated, June came in as a surprise to us in terms of its impact, particularly in Germany. Germany was positive last year, so there was a harder comp in June, if you will, for Germany. But that still is an area that we have some concern about in terms of watching, and, obviously, whenever we see a decline in revenue, we look at expense rightsizing, if you will. We don’t have a lot of – we never counted on a big recovery in Europe, as we’ve said in the prior calls, but this one particular impact in June was a little bit more dramatic than we were expecting. Hopefully, we’ll see better recovery, but at this point we can’t comment on that.


European Competitors

John Janedis – UBS: Sticking with Europe, Michael, your results were a little bit weaker than some of your peers. Can you attribute that at all to maybe your market or category exposure? And do you need to see any kind of improvement to deliver the margin target?

Michael I. Roth – Chairman and CEO: Well, clearly, if you look at auto and transportation, which obviously was a very strong sector for us, most of the growth was in the United States. So that could account for some of it. If our competitors are stronger in Europe on the auto sector, then the answer to that would be yes, okay? The other thing is, this business, we all have different clients in different sectors. In some quarters, we outperform our competitors. In other quarters, it’s the reverse. A lot of it has to do with where our clients come out. We have the large multinational clients all over the globe, if you will, and in some cases, our clients spend differently. Unfortunately, our clients don’t focus on our quarterly earnings. So therefore, how they spend is a different function. But I think you raise an interesting point on the auto sector because we are overweighted, if you will, on U.S. auto; and that actually bodes well for us for the rest of the year…

John Janedis – UBS: Then can you just give us an update on McCann? And at this point, is Paris’s full leadership team still in place?

Michael I. Roth – Chairman and CEO: Yeah, McCann is – first of all, we were very pleased with its performance in Cannes. Historically, everyone looked at McCann as this strong global agency, and everyone looked to these smaller shops on the creative side. I think the performance of McCann and Draftfcb in Cannes was an indication that you could be a global network, and really succeed on the creative side. So we’re very pleased with the changes and the impact that both Harris and Gustavo and Luca are having in the marketplace, particularly with our multinational clients. One of the issues I’ve always said is we want to make sure that we keep the back door closed. I think the entire team, they’ve been out there, Harris, I know, and Gustavo and Luca are all traveling and they’re meeting with our clients; and I think they’ve done a tremendous job in settling down our multinational clients as well as focusing on new business. And I think that bodes well for us in terms of achieving our objectives. And certainly, McCann is in a stronger position now that it’s been in and we expect it to continue. We’re always looking to add talent. We just announced Chris Macdonald coming into the United States. That’s a great addition to the McCann team. But we’re always looking at it, but we’re very pleased with our ability to recruit and the people we have right now.

John Janedis – UBS: So one final question for McCann then, Michael. Is it fair to say then any kind of incremental severance is now behind it?

Michael I. Roth – Chairman and CEO: It’s an interesting question, because we always say our severance number is around 1% and we’re always exceeding it. I think what that does is it shows that we are very strong in terms of matching our expense profile with our revenue. So, if we’re at 1% to 2 % – 1.2% or 1.3% going forward, I think that seems to be more consistent as we go forward. And then again in Europe; the impact on Europe, it takes us a little more on severance because of the social rules out there. And if actions have to take place in Europe, those severance numbers are a little bit higher. But that’s something we’re going to look into as we go forward. But I think we view it – whenever we take severance actions, we look for the payback on those actions. And obviously, we take them with a view towards improving our margin on a longer-term basis.

A Closer Look: Interpublic Group of Cos Earnings Cheat Sheet>>