WPP has reported better-than-expected earnings for its first quarter trading statement. The first, since the exit of former Chief Executive Sir Martin Sorrell.
Despite uncertainty over the future of WPP’s leadership and structure. Net sales (which WPP now describes as “like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs”) were down 0.1% across the holding company’s business, against a forecast drop of 1%, Reported revenue for the quarter was down 4% at £3.555 billion.
WPP’s public relations and public affairs businesses were among those showing the strongest growth, alongside brand consulting, health & wellness and specialist communications (including direct, digital & interactive). Like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs across the PR and PA business was up 1.5% to £275m for the quarter.
Executive chairman Roberto Quarta said the results were in line with expectations: “WPP has high-quality management teams throughout the business, and they continue to deliver for our clients. Mark Read and Andrew Scott are providing the stability and leadership WPP requires, but there is no standing still. They have my and the Board’s full backing to review the strategy, to come back to us with recommendations, and to move forward decisively to implement our vision for the Group.”
Cohn & Wolfe CEO Donna Imperato, who has been tapped to lead Burson Cohn & Wolfe, said positive first quarters for both Cohn & Wolfe and Burson-Marsteller bode well for the success of the merged agency.
North America, with like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs down 2.4%, was the weakest-performing region. The UK, with like-for-like growth of 5.4%, performed well, with particularly strong growth in the advertising, public relations & public affairs, health & wellness and direct, digital & interactive businesses.
WPP said western continental Europe, with like-for-like revenue down 1.5%, was “challenging”, particularly in Germany. The Netherlands, Italy, Scandinavia, Spain and Turkey were up strongly, with Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland and Switzerland “difficult”. In Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central & Eastern Europe, net sales were up 2.3%, with strong growth in Asia Pacific, Latin America and Central & Eastern Europe.
In a joint statement, WPP’s joint chief operating officers Mark Read and Andrew Scott said: “In the last two weeks we have focused on spending time with our clients and people, and the response has been very encouraging. As expected, our people are getting on with business as usual, and our clients have expressed their continued support for and confidence in WPP.”