WPP is continuing its policy of making smaller acquisitions – getting on for 30 or so this year – by buying a majority stake in Australian digital agency Webling Interactive. The stake has been bought on behalf of JWT.
Sydney-based Webling was Founded in 2004 by Deniz Nalbantoglu (left) and Darren Clark. Clients include Acer, Amex, Coca-Cola, Coles, CommSec, Fuji Xerox, Google, Mirvac, QIC Shopping Centres and gardening supplies company, Yates. For the year ending 30 June 2015, Webling’s revenues were A$4.4 million, with gross assets of A$1.3 million.
According to its recent half year report WPP’s net debt had risen to £3.13bn, up £261m on the same period last year. This is relatively undemanding for such a big company – with half year revenue of nearly £6bn and profits of £600m – although it may explain why CEO Sir Martin Sorrell has steered clear of big deals recently. Its reported interested in Tesco research business Dunnhumby would probably be with a private equity partner.
In the first half of 2015 WPP spent £475m on share buybacks, more than it has spent on any one acquisition since buying TNS Sofres before the financial crisis.
In Australia and New Zealand, WPP companies (including associates) generate revenues of US$1.2 billion and employ over 4,000 people. In the Asia Pacific region, WPP companies (including associates) generate revenues of US$5 billion and employ around 50,000 people out of a total of about 190,000.