Cordiant draws a curtain on a disastrous year

Bob Seelert, chief executive of the troubled advertising company Cordiant, yesterday said he had "drawn a curtain" on a disastrous 1995, and expected both revenues and margins to improve markedly this year, writes Mathew Horsman.

The claim came as the company announced pre-tax losses of pounds 22.6m for 1995, compared with losses of pounds 32.4m last time, reflecting improving margins and the replacement of revenues lost in high-profile client defections last year.

The holding company, formerly Saatchi & Saatchi, acrimoniously parted with its founder and chief executive Maurice Saatchi late in 1994. The ensuing battle, both commercial and legal, saw client business worth about 6 per cent of 1995 revenues "walk out the door," Mr Seelert said. New business from such clients as Procter and Gamble and Bell Atlantic, the US "baby bell" telephone company, helped replace the losses.

Analysts said the new management team, led by Mr Seelert, had restored some confidence in the company. "I feel a lot more comfortable that Cordiant is on stable footing now than I did last year," one media analyst said.

The company disposed of several operations last year as a part of its restructuring. As a result, revenues in the US declined sharply, although the UK was firmer. "The US is definitely our focus for winning new business in 1996," Mr Seelert said. A successful pounds 133m rights issue last year helped to improve the company's balance sheet, which had been highly leveraged.

The company's shares rose 2p to close last night at 105p.

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