Arthur SadounArthur Sadoun

Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun reported today a 2.9 percent slip in Q1 organic growth, which he called a "good start of the year" as the French ad/PR giant prepares for tougher days ahead due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the end of February, Publicis had chalked up flat growth despite a double-digit decline in China that was offset by five percent organic growth in the US.

COVID-19 containment measures in Europe put into place in March led to the deterioration of Publicis' business.

The firm has already announced a $575M cost reduction plan and a 50 percent cut in the dividend to be paid in September.

It is encouraging shareholders to reinvest the dividend in the company by opting for payment in stock, rather than cash.

Sadoun said the communications sector is facing a "crisis that will be unparalleled in terms of magnitude, complexity and probably length."

He said the COVID-19 health crisis "will lead us to the greatest recession in living memory" and that Publicis "could experience rebound situations, but also more difficult moments."