Law change means big names elude Top 100

The spectre of Enron looms over Design Week’s Top 100 this year, with many big groups shying away from the charts because of new accounting legislation covering US-listed companies.

Consultancies within the WPP, Interpublic and French-owned Havas empires are all absent, citing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The Act, passed in the US last July, now makes directors personally responsible for audited financial figures.

Landor Associates, Coley Porter Bell, Futurebrand, The Partners and Enterprise IG – number one for the past five years – are missing from the Top 100 as a result.

Imagination has taken over top spot, albeit with fee income down almost 13 per cent, while Interbrand returns to the fold in fourth place after a year away.

The latter’s Omnicom stablemate, Wolff Olins, moves up from fifth to third. Fitch remains in the top three, despite the troubles affecting its Cordiant Communications Group parent.

Apart from negligible growth predicted by most of the larger groups, a notable trend is the bullishness of several mid-size consultancies. Astound (25 per cent), Blue Martin (35 per cent), Brandhouse WTS (23 per cent), Elmwood (22 per cent) and Gyro (40 per cent) all expect optimistic rates of growth.

Willott Kingston Smith accountant Amanda Merron, who verified the research, says, ‘A surge of returning confidence is coming through in what is largely an independently owned table this year. Those groups adapting fastest to market opportunities are being positive about growth – and they’re likely to be right.’

Total fee income represented in the Top 100 is £399.9m on turnover of £627.27m to December 2002. The Government is lobbying to exempt UK companies from the scope of the Act in future.

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