Mars to leave Saatchi

Saatchi & Saatchi was rocked yesterday by the loss of the advertising account for Mars, which spends more than $400m a year promoting household brands such as KiteKat cat food, Pedigree Chum, Snickers and Milky Way chocolate bars and Opal Fruits through Saatchi.

Analysts estimated that the account generated gross revenues of £30m and profits of £12m. Profit projections of £44m for this year, already downgraded, are set to be revised again to £31m-£33m.

The reversal in expectations comes when the advertising industry shows signs of continuing recovery from the recession. Research by analysts at Panmure Gordon, the stockbrokers, shows that advertising expenditure in the UK should exceed £9bn in 1996, a level last attained in 1989.

Robert Jolliffe, analyst at Hoare Govett, said yesterday: "The loss of the Mars account is clearly an extremely serious blow to the group, and marks the first serious repercussion outside the Saatchi & Saatchi network since the departure of Maurice Saatchi."

Saatchi's shares slumped from 105p to a low of 94.5p.