NEWS25 February 2010

‘Ready for battle’ – Ipsos predicts growth for 2010 after 2009 decline

Europe Financials

FRANCE— 2009 marked the end of Ipsos’s 30-year run of growth with sales down 3.6% to €943.7m. The company called it “a year of learning”and has vowed to come out fighting in 2010.

Like-for-like sales declined across each of Ipsos’s specialisms with customer satisfaction research hardest hit, because its customer base primarily comprised car makers, financial services and transportation companies. Regionally it was the same story, except for Asia Pacific and the Middle East which together recorded organic growth of 5%, helped by a pick-up in revenue in the fourth quarter.

Ipsos would have maintained and slightly improved its operating profitability were it not for the €12.9m paid out in severance to staff made redundant. At the half-year mark Ipsos had cut 400 jobs. At year-end, the number of permanent employees was 8,761, down 4% on 2008, equating to 367 positions. Finance chief Laurence Stoclet explained that the discrepancy in the half-year and full-year numbers was due to hiring, “especially in emerging countries where our growth has been close to 4%,” she said.

The so-called ‘Plan B’ job cuts have reduced the company’s wage bill by €15.6m. Before severance costs, operating profit was €101.7m, up 2%; with the severance factored in, operating profit declined 9.5% to €88.7m.

Ipsos said it expects to return to growth in 2010, with revenue up between 3% and 5% on a like-for-like and constant-currency basis. Referring to the recession and the credit crunch that precipitated it, the company said: “As long as there is not another wave of the crisis or the start of a major geopolitical crisis, 2010 should be a more positive year. Once again, there is a clear need for information about consumers/clients/citizens, particularly when companies themselves want to defend their market share… and to grow where they can see potential.”

The group itself continues to look to shore up its own market position through acquisitions. In January it bought OTX, an online research specialist, which will serve to help Ipsos develop its digital research capabilities. Meanwhile, late yesterday Ipsos announced the purchase of a 25% stake in Portuguese research agency Apeme with the option to buy out the business fully in five years’ time.

“Ipsos is ready for battle,” the company said.