WPP ahead of target but media buying rival Aegis is growing twice as fast

Marcoms giant WPP grew its like-for-like revenue four per cent in the first quarter of 2011, slightly ahead of budget and roughly in line with recent figures from biggest rivals Omnicom and Publicis Groupe.

Latin America was the fastest-growing region with the double-dip recession UK doing surprisingly well at three per cent. Pleasingly for boss Sir Martin Sorrell ‘consumer insight’ revenue (its market research division Kantar) shows signs of awakening from its recent torpor, growing total revenue 3.3 per cent. Like-for-like sales only rose 1.3 per cent though.

Tellingly, research firm TNS Custom gets a mention in despatches, enjoying its best year since 2008 WPP says. WPP bought TNS for a chunky £1.1bn that year.

Margins are up a bit to 14.85 per cent and direct and digital, the focus for much of the company’s recent investment, increased their share of the total WPP pot by two per cent. Sorrell says he plans to make more small to medium-sized acquisitions this year (there have already been tons, mostly in Asia and the Far East) which will add up to five per cent to group revenues The full numbers are here.

Meanwhile, back in the media department, go-go performer Aegis, owner of Carat, Vizeum and Isobar, delivered another startling performance, increasing total revenue by over 16 per cent (like-for-like 8.1 per cent). This compares with a strong first quarter in 2011 so is doubly notable.

As these numbers show, Aegis CEO Jerry Buhlmann shook the dust off his cheque book in 2011 and can be expected to do the same this year. Last summer, in contrast to WPP, it gave up the battle with research by selling its Synovate research arm to French specialist Ipsos for £525m.

At the tail end of last year Carat won General Motors’ $3bn media account although only the European part (which Carat already held) shows in these accounts. Carat is reported (by Stuart Smith here) to have agreed to work for GM for the first two years of its GM contract on a cost-only basis.

With revenue growth like this it has plenty of other opportunities to turn a profit.

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