Despite Third-Quarter Growth, WPP Predicts Rough 2009

North America the Weakest Region for Holding Company

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- In spite of a fairly productive third quarter and first nine months of the year, when announcing its third-quarter results today WPP Group said it is anticipating that "2009 will be a very tough year."

WPP today reported that its revenue for the third quarter rose 16.2% to $2.8 billion. The holding company said its revenue growth was up 3% in the quarter vs. the same period last year.

North America was the weakest region for WPP, with flat revenue, while its strongest areas of growth were Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Those regions saw revenue grow of about 16.5%.

Crisis impacts communications
"Overall, the second, more severe leg of the financial crisis, which started a few months ago, has had most impact on the communications services markets of the United States and United Kingdom, following the tightening seen in the second quarter in the United States and Western Europe," the company said in a statement.

WPP reported that growth was more balanced in the communications-services sector. Advertising, media-investment management, public relations and public affairs showed the strongest growth, with revenue up over 7%. Branding and identity, health care and specialist communications were up 4.4% and information, insight and consultancy 4.0%.

During the third quarter, net new-business billings were $1.73 billion. "[WPP] continues to benefit from consolidation trends in the industry, winning several large assignments from existing and new clients," the company noted.

Flat operating margin
It also noted that its operating margin was flat for the first nine months of the year and that it was going to be a challenge to "achieve our improved operating margin target of 15.5% for 2008."

WPP has been dealing with the current economic crisis and preparing for the uncertainty of 2009 by implementing a global hiring freeze. But the economic crisis doesn't mean Chief Executive Martin Sorrell won't continue to make acquisitions, most notably research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres. Yesterday WPP announced that 95% of TNS shareholders had accepted its purchase offer, meaning an eventual deal was that much closer. WPP once extended the offer deadline to Nov. 12.
Most Popular