WPP’s 2018 preliminary results has reported billings at £55.798 billion, up 0.4%, up 3.3% in constant currency and up 3.2% like-for-like.
The Companies revenue was down 1.3% at £15.602 billion. Revenue on a constant currency basis was up 1.5% compared with last year, the difference to the reportable number reflecting the strength of the pound sterling against most currencies, particularly in the first half of the year.On a like-for-like basis, which excludes the impact of currency and acquisitions, revenue was up 0.8%.
The revenue less pass-through costs of the agency was down 2.6%, up 0.2% in constant currency and down 0.4% like-for-like. In the fourth quarter, like-for-like revenue was down 0.1%, a slight deterioration from the third quarter of +0.2%, with all regions, except North America, showing an improvement. On the same basis, revenue less pass-through costs in the fourth quarter was down 0.7%, an improvement over the third quarter of -1.5%, with North America and the United Kingdom slightly weaker, more than offset by stronger growth in Western Continental Europe and Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central & Eastern Europe.
Mark Read, Chief Executive Officer, WPP said, “Since September, we have made good progress in implementing the new strategy for WPP. We have set out our vision for a more client-centric WPP, simplified our offer through the creation of two new integrated networks, VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson, realigned our US healthcare agencies with major networks, formed the Company’s first executive committee and begun the process of seeking a financial and strategic partner for Kantar. Through 36 disposals since April 2018, we have strengthened our balance sheet and streamlined our business, raising £849 million of cash proceeds in 2018.
“We are showing early signs of success in attracting new business and new talent to WPP. The newly formed VMLY&R, for example, has enjoyed a strong start, with client wins totaling $25 million in its first 90 days. The quality of our creative work has been exceptional, with six WPP spots featuring at this year’s Super Bowl and work such as Grey’s ‘The Best Men Can Be’ for Gillette demonstrating once again the global impact of what we do.
“Our results for 2018 are at the upper end of the guidance we provided in October, with like for-like revenue less pass-through costs down 0.4%.
“As we have said previously, 2019 will be challenging – particularly in the first half – due to headwinds from client losses in 2018. However, we start the year with fewer clients under review than we did in 2018, and investments in creativity and technology will further improve the competitiveness of our offer.
“Our business is performing strongly in Western Continental Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central & Eastern Europe, and we are addressing our performance in the United States. Important wins such as Volkswagen in North America reflect our creative strengths, and we are making significant investments in talent in our largest market.
“We are at the beginning of a three-year turnaround plan, but WPP’s new positioning as a creative transformation company with stronger, more integrated, more tech-enabled agencies is already proving effective, having driven several of our recent new business successes. As we implement our strategy in 2019 we will continue to put creativity, technology and great work for clients at the heart of our own transformation.”