NEWS21 August 2009

Q4 continues run of disappointment for Harris

Financials North America

US— Harris Interactive saw revenue fall 32% to $43.5m in the three months ending 30 June, its sixth consecutive quarter of sales declines – yet CEO Kimberly Till expressed optimism for the new financial year.

Till said some $22m in annualised costs had been taken out of the business in fiscal 2009, including $9.5m cut from the payroll through head count reductions in the US and UK.

A new management team has also been appointed, many of them joining from TNS, Till’s previous employer, including global accounts SVP Berkeley Scott, technology chief Richard Scionti, SVP and general counsel Marc Levin, global EVP of technology and operations Enzo Micali, global loyalty head Stefan Schmelcher and the most recent addition, technology, media and telecoms SVP Micheal Saxton.

Till said the company would spend $6m of the cost savings on bringing in additional talent in fiscal 2010. Speaking in a conference call, she added: “I feel very positive about the decisive steps that we took in fiscal year 2009 and the team that we now have in place. We are well positioned to implement our strategy and plans in fiscal year 2010 and beyond.”

Plans include the creation of client teams with specialised expertise in solutions and industry sectors, the use of technology to make internal processes more efficient and automated, the creation of a global account programme and the development of new products and solutions.

Till spoke also of strengthening Harris’s international presence – but acquisitions seem unlikely. Instead Harris will look to expand its global network of partner agencies, which currently has representatives in 13 countries, including Latin American, African and Middle Eastern markets.

Fiscal fourth quarter revenue by country (and in local currency) was down 32% in the US, 26% in the UK and 16% in Canada. Sales in France and Germany were up 7% each, while Asian revenue was up 22% in US dollars.

Operating loss was $100,000 compared with a loss of $87.7m last year, though $86.5m of that was a good will impairment charge. Net loss for Q4 2009 was $700,000.

For the full year, revenue was down 23% to $184.3m on negative growth in the US, the UK, Canada and Germany. Operating loss was $56.4m and net loss was $75.3m.

  • Harris Interactive has announced that chairman George Bell is standing down from the board on 27 October after five years, citing additional commitments he has made to private equity firm General Catalyst Partners where he is managing general partner. The company stressed there had been no disagreement between itself and Bell “on any matter relating to the company’s operations, policies or practices, or otherwise”. Lead independent director Howard Shecter will replace Bell, while Steven Fingerhood replaces Shecter.


1 Comment

15 years ago

TNS as an organization is not particularly well regarded as a provider of online Marketing Research expertise; the purported key focus of the Harris Interactive business. Notwithstanding this, Kimberly Till continues to recruit senior executives almost exclusively from the ranks of her former employer, presumably on the basis of their being known quantities. Given the continuing rapid deterioration of HI fiscal performance, it may beneficial to move beyond what is comfortable, by seeking to identify and attract the best available talent within the space.

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