By Alexandra Bruell
As Madison Avenue's big-ticket acquisition spree continues, Omnicom Group Inc. intends to stick with smaller deals.
The ad giant will continue to focus on bolt-on acquisitions and data partnerships, the company said Tuesday during its first-quarter earnings call with analysts. Omnicom owns agencies such as BBDO, OMD and FleishmanHillard.
The agency business has seen a slew of activity on the M&A front as the sector tries to modernize and keep up with changes brought on by the rise of digital advertising.
Ad giant Publicis Groupe SA on Sunday announced its $4.4 billion acquisition of data firm Epsilon, Accenture PLC this month acquired the high-profile creative agency Droga5, and Interpublic Group of Cos. late last year acquired data firm Acxiom Corp.'s marketing services unit.
"If I or the team felt threatened in any way, we'd look for the appropriate acquisitions to complete our offerings to our clients," Chairman and Chief Executive John Wren said during Omnicom's earnings call. "I simply don't feel that way right now."
Omnicom doesn't need another creative agency like Droga5 because it already has "good agencies," he said. The company has similar feelings about the Epsilon transaction. "They don't have anything from what I can observe that's unique or so proprietary," Mr. Wren said.
While Omnicom continues to invest in data capabilities, in most cases it would rather rent than own data, said Jonathan Nelson, chief executive of Omnicom Digital, during the call. The company expressed similar sentiments after IPG's Acxiom deal.
But Omnicom hasn't sworn off deal making entirely. "We're going to continue to pursue deals," Chief Financial Officer Philip Angelastro said. "We're pretty disciplined about it."
The company in 2018 and early 2019 sold various assets, including sales support businesses MarketStar and Sellbytel. Omnicom wasn't prepared to keep investing what was needed for the future of those businesses, and was able to find buyers that made more sense for them, Mr. Angelastro said.
Omnicom will continue to seek operational efficiencies from real estate, back-office services, procurement and IT, he added.
As ad businesses brace for heightened privacy regulation, Omnicom says not much is changing at this time.
"What we're trying to do is find that fuzzy line of privacy and take a few steps back from it," said Mr. Nelson. "I think that policy has worked so far and will likely work going forward."
Omnicom reported a 4.4% decrease in revenue to $3.47 billion in the first quarter due in part to foreign-exchange rates and dispositions, slightly beating analyst expectations. Organic revenue, a key metric that strips out currency effects and acquisitions, increased 2.5% compared with the first quarter last year.
Organic revenue grew 2% in the U.S.; 1.3% in the U.K.; 4% in Europe; 2.1% for the Asia Pacific; and 12.8% for the Middle East and Africa. Latin America decreased 3%.
Earnings per share in the quarter increased 3 cents to $1.17, beating analyst expectations. Operating profit in the first quarter increased 1.7% to $428.9 million.
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