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The Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 24, 2012 8:30 am ET


Jerome J. Leshne - Senior Vice President of Investor Relations

Michael I. Roth - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Executive Committee

Frank Mergenthaler - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President


Alexia S. Quadrani - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

John Janedis - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Benjamin Swinburne - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

David Bank - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Peter Stabler - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

William G. Bird - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

Matthew Chesler - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

James Dix - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

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Good morning, and welcome to the Interpublic Group Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2011 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] This conference is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. I would now like to introduce Mr. Jerry Leshne, Senior Vice President of Investor Relations. Sir, you may begin.

Jerome J. Leshne

Good morning. Thank you for joining us. We have posted our earnings release and our slide presentation on our website,, and we'll refer to both in the course of this call. This morning, we are joined by Michael Roth and Frank Mergenthaler. We will begin with prepared remarks to be followed by Q&A. We plan to conclude before market open at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. During this call, we will refer to forward-looking statements about our company, which are subject to the uncertainties, and the cautionary statement included in our earnings release and the slide presentation and further detailed in our 10-K and other filings with the SEC. At this point, it is my pleasure to turn things over to Michael Roth.

Michael I. Roth

Thank you, Jerry, and thank you all for joining us this morning. We're pleased to report strong financial results for the fourth quarter and full year, driven by organic revenue growth in 2011 at the high end of our industry and significant improvement in both operating margin and earnings per share.

Beginning with revenue, our organic growth was 6.1% for the year. This is ahead of the 4% to 5% growth we had targeted. Our fourth quarter organic growth was 2.8%, and given the challenging comparison to Q4 2010 organic growth of 11.2%, this is a solid performance. For the full year, all of our global networks grew organically. We grew in all client sectors and in most regions of the world, with Continental Europe the sole exception, as we expected.

Our digital capabilities, whether embedded across our organization or within digital specialist agencies, contributed significantly to our growth. This performance speaks to the quality and competitiveness of our offerings, as well as to the power of our diversified model and geographic reach. Throughout the year, we continued to invest in talent and tools so as to better meet the needs of our clients in the dynamic media and marketing environment.

At the same time, our operators remain disciplined in their expense management, which allowed us to effectively convert incremental revenue to operating profit. This was clearly evident in our Q4 results. Operating profit increased 17% from a year ago to $385 million, with operating margin expansion of 210 basis points to 18.6%. For the full year, our operating profit increased 25% to $687 million. Operating margin expanded by 140 basis points to 9.8%, within the targeted range we had set early in the year.

Again, it's worth noting that all of our global networks and all world regions other than Europe improved operating margin during 2011. Frank will provide details on the various key efficiency metrics, but there's one I want to call out. We posted the highest revenue per employee recorded by our company in over a decade. Diluted EPS for the quarter was $0.50 compared with $0.36 a year ago, an increase of 39%. For the full year, diluted EPS was $0.99. Excluding the Facebook gain recorded in the third quarter, full year diluted earnings per share would have been a $0.76, an increase of 62% from the 2010 EPS of $0.47.

Our capital return programs have also been a significant area of sustainable value creation. At this time last year, we initiated our share repurchase program and common stock dividend. These were important milestones for our company. We're pleased to report that during 2011, via buybacks and dividends, we returned a total over $500 million to our shareholders. Today, we're announcing a number of steps that will further utilize our strong financial position for both return of capital and debt de-leveraging.

First, our board has authorized a new repurchase program in the amount of $300 million. This is in addition to the $50 million of capacity that remained on our existing authorization as of January 1. Second, we've elected to exercise our option to call our 4.25% convertible notes, $400 million outstanding. This action will eliminate convertible equity of 33 million shares that is presently in our diluted share count.

Overall, 2011 was another very strong year for us. We demonstrated the vitality and competitiveness of our professional offerings, converted top line growth into significant gains and profitability and further improved our capital structure. This progress positions us to deliver on the 2014 goals we set at our Investor Day, which will allow us to drive continued value creation going forward. At this point, let me turn things over to Frank for some additional color on our financial performance.

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