WPP Reports 1.5% Revenue Growth for First Quarter of 2014

Company Says This Year Looks

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WPP reported revenue growth of 1.5% for the first quarter of 2014, and noted that this year looks "very similar" to 2013.

Revenue reported in British pounds—2.570 billion in sterling—was impacted by the sharp rise in the U.K. currency. In dollars, WPP's first-quarter revenue was up by 8.7% to $4.257 billion.

In North America, which accounts for 35% of WPP's revenue, growth was 3.4%. In Europe, the U.K. stood out with 12.2% growth.

WPP said in a statement that the company made 20 acquisitions in the first quarter, continuing its focus on new markets, new media and data investment management. The deals included direct, digital and interactive business in the U.S., the U.K. and China, and a public relations firm in China.

WPP, the world's biggest agency company, won $1.275 billion in net new business in the first quarter of 2014, compared to $1.504 billion for the same period last year. WPP owns global creative agency networks JWT, Ogilvy & Mather, Y&R, Grey and media agency networks Mindshare, MEC and MediaCom.

In its statement, the company noted ongoing concerns over what it called four "gray swan" events, or "known unknowns." They are the fragility of the Eurozone, prospects for the Middle East, a slowdown in China and the other BRIC countries, and most seriously, dealing with the massive U.S. deficit and $16 trillion debt. WPP added two new "black swan" concerns, definited as "unknown unknowns": the crisis in the Ukraine and the acceleration of a territorial dispute between China and Japan.

WPP said clients are more confident than they were in the depths of the global economic crisis, but remain broadly unwilling to take further risks, and remain focused on increasing profits by cutting costs.

More optimistically, WPP said 2014 looks much like 2013, "perhaps with slightly increased client confidence." WPP attributes that in part to slightly stronger global GDP growth forecasts and global sports events like the World Cup in Brazil.

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