Sorrell’s WPP advertises £2.4bn Q1 revenues

Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP, the world’s largest advertising and marketing firm, has posted better than expected Q1 revenues, up 4% to £2.4bn.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 12 Jun 2012

The news will be especially welcome as in doing so WPP has outperformed one key rival Havas and matched another, Publicis. What’s driving this unexpected vigour? Well of WPP’s many divisions, each comprising legions of individual companies, its core advertising business has put in a strong showing.  The group which comprises names such as JWT, Grey and Group M grew at 6.2% to £973m revenues.

By contrast, its PR and consumer insight (we think that means market research) arms fared less well, managing only 1.3% and 1.9% respectively. You can’t win ‘em all, Martin. Nonetheless, the group now reckons it should beat its earlier 4% growth target for the full year. 

But when looked at by region, it’s clear to see that the action is largely in the emerging markets - the ‘rest of the world’ (which for WPP is more or less anywhere outside the UK, western Europe and the US) grew at 9.5%, with the Latin American market growing fastest of all at a whopping 14.1%. The UK by contrast managed a rather puny 2.85% growth - although that is pretty good considering the recent ONS double dip data - and the US, WPP’s largest market, could only manage 1.4%.

Sorrell remains pretty glass-half-full about prospects here in Blighty for the rest of the year, thanks to the imminent arrival of the greatest show on earth, the London Olympics, in the summer whose effects have yet to be felt. ‘Markets are very short term,’ he said. ‘We won't see it until very near the time the events start. Events such as the Olympics and European Championships, when you get into the throes of it and activity kicks off, then competitors are forced to respond.’

Neither has his famed penchant for acquisitions cooled much of late - the group has made 14 investments already  this year and plans to continue looking for small or medium-sized targets with the aim of adding around 5% to its annual revenues by such acquisitions.  

Not much chance of a shareholder revolt on the basis of these numbers then - Barclay’s CEO Bob Diamond might be ready to trade places with Sorrell, if only until the bank’s turbulent AGM draws to a close later this afternoon… 

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