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The Interpublic Group Of Companies' CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Turning to our client sectors. We had double-digit growth in the auto and transportation and retail sectors, as well as growth in financial services and food and beverage.

The tone of our continuing business remains solid, but we did experience the negative revenue impact related to last year's account activity that we identified on our last call. Those headwinds were mainly felt in our consumer goods and tech and telecom sectors, both domestically and internationally.

Turning to operating expenses. Results in the quarter reflect continued careful cost management. This type of discipline is something that we trust you've come to expect from this management team.

Our Q1 seasonal operating loss was $39 million, a 13% improvement compared to a loss of $45 million a year ago.

On a trailing 12-month basis, our operating margin was 9.8%, maintaining our performance for the full year 2011, a level of profitability that Interpublic had not achieved in over a decade. Other Q1 highlights saw a continued progress in decreasing outstanding shares and reducing our debt.

During the quarter, we repurchased a further 5 million shares using $53 million along with our quarterly common stock dividend of $26 million.

Given the seasonality of our cash flows, we chose to moderate the pace of our repurchase activity in the year's first quarter.

For the 12 months ending March 31, we have returned over $550 million to our shareholders via common dividends and the repurchase of 46 million shares. This is an accomplishment of which we are proud and one that speaks to our confidence that we can continue to build on the strong performance and positive momentum of recent years, another area in which we've taken significant strides in strengthening our balance sheet and overall financial position. In late March, we took another positive step in this regard by retiring our $400 million 4.25% a quarter convertible notes, which eliminates 33 million shares from our diluted share count. Concurrently, we issued $250 million of new 10-year senior notes with a 4% coupon, thereby, lowering our total debt by $150 million as a result of these 2 transactions.

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