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(April 26, 2001) -- Helped by acquisitions, WPP Group posted a 64% increase in revenue, to $1.39 billion in the first quarter, but organic revenue growth -- excluding currency fluctuations and acquisitions such as Young & Rubicam -- was only 6%.

WPP management blamed the results on the U.S. economic slowdown, particularly in the technology, media and telecommunications sectors, as well as the strength of the U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies against the British pound. The company restated its target of increasing operating margins to 15% this year, from 14% in 2000.

Marketing communications revenue rose faster than advertising and media revenue; the public relations segment rose 116.9% and health care and specialist communications grew 83.3%, while advertising and media revenue grew 64.2%, all adjusted for currency. Revenue adjusted for currency grew 90.6% in continental Europe, 35.4% in the U.K., 64.1 in North America and 72.1% in the remaining foreign markets.

WPP agencies won net new billings of $365 million in the quarter. -- Mercedes Cardona

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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