WPP predicts tougher 2017 after slow start to the year

World’s largest advertising group highlights possible slowdown after hitting 2016 target

WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell: the group reported that 2016 like-for-like net sales were up 3.1 per cent. Photograph: Ruben Sprich/Reuters

WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell: the group reported that 2016 like-for-like net sales were up 3.1 per cent. Photograph: Ruben Sprich/Reuters

 

WPP, the world’s largest advertising group, said it had seen a relatively slow start to 2017 and would plan conservatively for the year ahead after hitting its 2016 target for net sales growth.

The group, run by high-profile businessman Martin Sorrell, reported that 2016 like-for-like net sales were up 3.1 per cent but said its key sales measure was up just 1.2 per cent in January.

“Given continued tepid economic growth and recent weaker comparative net new business trends, the budgets for 2017, on a like-for-like basis, have been set conservatively at around 2 per cent for both revenue and net sales,” it said.

WPP said it would target a headline operating margin improvement on net sales of 0.3 margin points, in constant currency. The world’s four biggest advertising groups – WPP, Omnicom, Publicis and IPG – tend to track wider economic growth, and WPP’s 2017 forecast of 2 per cent growth is below analysts’ expectations for the company.

WPP’s rivals had already reported full-year results showing some pressures in North America. For 2016 the group reported strong growth in western continental Europe and in Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central & Eastern Europe.

Reuters