WPP 2013 Preliminary Results

  WPP 2013 Preliminary Results    *Billings up 4.1% at over £46 billion   *Revenues up 6.2% at over £11 billion   *Like-for-like revenue up 3.5%, with second half up 4.6%   *Operating margin at historical high of 15.1%, up 0.3 margin points, up 0.5     margin points in constant currency and 0.6 margin points like-for-like   *Gross margin or net sales margin at historical high of 16.5%, up 0.4     margin points   *Impact of exchange rates in second half reduced reported margin   *Headline profit before interest and tax £1.662 billion, up over 8%   *Headline profit before tax £1.458 billion, up almost 11%   *Profit before tax £1.296 billion, up almost 19%   *Headline diluted earnings per share of 80.8p, up over 10%   *Dividends per share of 34.21p, up 20%, and pay-out ratio of 42% versus 39%     last year, with a targeted dividend pay-out ratio of 45% in 2014   *Share buy-back target raised to 2-3% of share capital against current 1%   *Strategic targets raised for each of faster growth markets and new media     sectors to 40-45% of revenues from 35-40% over the next five years   *Constant currency net debt at 31 December 2013 down £634 million on same     date in 2012, with average net debt in 2013 down £244 million over 2012   *Good start to 2014 with January like-for-like revenues up 5.7% and gross     margin or net sales up 4.1%  Business Wire  NEW YORK & LONDON -- February 27, 2014  WPP (NASDAQ:WPPGY) today reported its 2013 Preliminary Results.  Key figures £ million    2013      ∆             ∆             %           2012      %                              reported^1       constant^2       revenues                    revenues Revenue      11,019    6.2%          5.7%          -           10,373    - Gross Margin       10,076    5.9%          5.4%          91.4%       9,515     91.7% (Net Sales) Headline     1,896     8.0%          8.4%          17.2%       1,756     16.9% EBITDA^3 Headline     1,662     8.5%          9.0%          15.1%*      1,531     14.8% PBIT^4 EPS headline     80.8p     10.1%         9.7%          -           73.4p     - diluted^5 Diluted      69.6p     10.8%         10.6%         -           62.8p     - EPS^6 Dividends    34.21p    20.0%         20.0%         -           28.51p    - per share  * Gross margin or net sales margin of 16.5% (2012 16.1%)  _________________________________ ^1          Percentage change in reported sterling ^2           Percentage change at constant currency exchange rates ^3           Headline earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and              amortisation ^4           Headline profit before interest and tax ^5           Diluted earnings per share based on headline earnings ^6           Diluted earnings per share based on reported earnings  Full Year highlights    *Reported billings increased 4.1% to £46.2bn driven by a strong leadership     position in all net new business league tables   *Revenue growth of 6.2%, with like-for-like growth of 3.5%, 2.2% growth     from acquisitions and 0.5% from currency   *Like-for-like revenue growth in all regions, characterised by strong     growth in Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East and the     United Kingdom and all but one sector (public relations and public     affairs), with strong growth in advertising and media investment     management and branding and identity, healthcare and specialist     communications (including direct, digital and interactive)   *Like-for-like gross margin or net sales growth at 3.4%, in-line with     like-for-like revenue growth of 3.5%, but with stronger growth in the     Group’s data investment management businesses, offset by lower gross     margin growth in media investment management, as we see the initial impact     of increased digital inventory trading, where billings effectively become     revenues in comparison with traditional media buying. Revenues are,     therefore, likely to grow faster than before and faster than gross margin.     As a result, we will be focusing more on our gross margin or net sales     margin   *Headline EBITDA growth of 8.0% giving 0.3 margin points improvement, with     like-for-like operating costs (+2.9%) rising slower than revenues   *Strength of sterling in the second half and final quarter lowered reported     margins by 0.2 margin points. In the second half of 2013 and more     particularly in the final quarter, when approximately two-thirds and 40%     respectively of our profits are earned, sterling strengthened against many     currencies in key faster growth markets by 10-20%, such as India,     Australia, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and Indonesia, where     operating margins are also above the Group average. This began to have an     impact on the Group’s reported margins in September, but escalated     throughout the final quarter, with a full year impact of 0.2 margin     points. Group margins on a constant currency basis increased by 0.5 margin     points, in line with the Group’s margin target of 0.5 margin point     improvement. On a like-for-like basis they improved 0.6 margin points.   *Headline PBIT increase of 8.5% with PBIT margin rising by 0.3 margin     points to 15.1%, surpassing the previous historical pro forma high of     14.8% achieved in 2012. On a constant currency and like-for-like basis     PBIT margins increased by 0.5 and 0.6 margin points, reflecting the impact     of the strength of sterling on the faster growth markets   *Exceptional gains of £36 million largely representing gains on the     re-measurement of the Group’s equity interests, where we have acquired a     majority stake   *Gross margin or net sales margin, a more accurate competitive comparator,     up 0.4 margin points to an industry leading 16.5%, up 0.5 margin points in     constant currency and 0.6 margin points like-for-like   *Headline diluted EPS up 10.1% and reported diluted EPS up 10.8%, with 20%     higher final ordinary dividend of 23.65p and full year dividends of 34.21p     per share up 20%   *Targeted dividend pay-out ratio raised to 45%, to be reached in 2014   *Average net debt decreased £244m (7.5%) to £2.989bn compared to last year,     at 2013 exchange rates, reflecting the continued improvement in working     capital in the second half of the year and also the benefit of converting     all of the £450 million Convertible Bond in mid-2013 and lower acquisition     spending in 2013   *Creative and effectiveness excellence recognised again in 2013 with the     award of the Cannes Lion to WPP for the most creative Holding Company for     the third successive year since its inception, another to Ogilvy & Mather     Worldwide for the second consecutive year as the most creative agency     network and another to Ogilvy Brazil as the most creative agency. Grey was     named Global Agency of the Year 2013 by both Ad Age and Adweek. For the     second consecutive year, WPP was awarded the EFFIE as the most effective     Holding Company   *Strategy implementation accelerated in a pre- and post-POG (Publicis     Omnicom Group) world as sector targets for fast growth markets and digital     raised from 35-40% to 40-45% over the next five years  Current trading and outlook    *January 2014 | Like-for-like revenues up 5.7% for the month, with     like-for-like gross margin or net sales, a more accurate competitive     comparator up 4.1%, ahead of budget and stronger than the final quarter of     2013   *FY 2014 budget | Like-for-like revenue and gross margin or net sales     growth of over 3% and headline operating margin target improvement for     both of 0.3 margin points, excluding the impact of currency   *Dual focus in 2014 | 1. Revenue growth from leading position in faster     growing geographic markets and digital, premier parent company creative     position, new business, “horizontality” and strategically targeted     acquisitions; 2. Continued emphasis on balancing revenue growth with     headcount increases and improvement in staff costs/revenue ratio to     enhance operating margins   *Long-term targets recalibrated | Above industry revenue growth due to     geographically superior position in new markets and functional strength in     new media and data investment management, including data analytics and the     application of new technology; improvement in staff costs/gross margin     ratio of 0.2 to 0.4 margin points p.a. depending on gross margin or net     sales growth; operating margin expansion of 0.3 margin points or more on a     constant currency basis; and headline diluted EPS growth of 10% to 15%     p.a. from margin expansion, strategically targeted small and medium-sized     acquisitions and share buy-backs  In this press release not all of the figures and ratios used are readily available from the unaudited preliminary results included in Appendix 1. Where required, details of how these have been arrived at are shown in the Appendices.  Review of group results  Revenues  Revenue analysis £          2013      ∆           ∆             ∆        Acquisitions    2012 million                    reported       constant^7       LFL^8 First      5,327     7.1%        5.5%          2.4%     3.1%            4,972 half Second     5,692     5.4%        5.9%          4.6%     1.3%            5,401 half Full       11,019    6.2%        5.7%          3.5%     2.2%            10,373 year                                                                                             Billings increased 4.1% to £46.2 billion, up 3.6% in constant currency. Estimated net new business billings of £6.119 billion ($9.791 billion) were won in the year, up over 57% on last year, placing the Group first in all net new business tables. The Group continues to benefit from consolidation trends in the industry, winning assignments from existing and new clients, including several very large industry-leading advertising, digital, media, pharmaceutical and shopper marketing assignments, which partly benefitted the latter half of 2013, but the full benefit of which will be seen in Group revenues in 2014.  Reportable revenue was up 6.2% at £11.019 billion. Revenue on a constant currency basis was up 5.7% compared with last year, but changes in exchange rates, chiefly reflecting the weakness of the pound sterling against the US dollar and euro in the first nine months, mostly offset by the strength of the pound sterling against the US dollar, Japanese yen, Australian dollar and Indian rupee in the final quarter, increased revenue by 0.5%. As a number of our competitors report in US dollars and in euros, appendices 2 and 3 show WPP’s Preliminary results in reportable US dollars and euros respectively. This shows that US dollar reportable revenues were up 4.8% to $17.252 billion and earnings before interest and taxes up 7.4% to $2.620 billion, which compares with the $14.584 billion and $1.926^9 billion respectively of our closest United States-based competitor and that euro reportable revenues were up 1.4% to €12.978 billion and earnings before interest and taxes up 3.7% to €1.962 billion, which compares with €6.953 billion and €1.107^10 billion respectively of our nearest European-based competitor.  On a like-for-like basis, which excludes the impact of currency and acquisitions, revenues were up 3.5%, with gross margin or net sales up 3.4%. In the fourth quarter, like-for-like revenues were up 4.2%, following like-for-like growth in the third quarter of 5.0%, due to stronger growth in the fourth quarter in North America and Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe, offset by lower growth in the United Kingdom.  Operating profitability  Headline EBITDA was up 8.0% to £1.896 billion from £1.756 billion and up 8.4% in constant currencies. Group revenues are more weighted to the second half of the year across all regions and functions and particularly in the faster growing markets of Asia Pacific and Latin America. As a result, the Group’s profitability and margins continue to be skewed to the second half of the year and following the strengthening of sterling in the final quarter, particularly against the currencies of the faster growth markets, the Group’s reportable operating margin was lowered. The currency effect is intensified by the fact that disproportionate amounts of central overheads and incentive payments are borne in £ sterling and United States dollars. Headline operating profit for 2013 was up 8.5% to £1.662 billion from £1.531 billion and up 9.0% in constant currencies.  ________________________________ ^7     Percentage change at constant currency exchange rates ^8      Like-for-like growth at constant currency exchange rates and excluding         the effects of acquisitions and disposals ^9      EBITDA, defined as operating income before interest, taxes and         amortisation and including POG merger related costs of $41 million ^10     Operating margin including POG merger related costs of €38 million  Headline operating margins were up 0.3 margin points to a new historical high of 15.1% and up 0.5 margin points in constant currency and 0.6 margin points like-for-like, more than in line with the Group’s margin target, compared to 14.8% in 2012. The headline margin of 15.1% is after charging £27 million ($43 million) of severance costs, compared with £51 million ($82 million) in 2012 and £328 million ($521 million) of incentive payments, versus £291 million ($462 million) in 2012. As already noted, in 2013 the impact of exchange rates reduced reported margins by 0.2 margin points. Constant currency and like-for-like operating margins improved 0.5 and 0.6 margin points respectively. Over the last three years, reported operating margins have improved by 1.9 margin points and by 2.3 margin points excluding the impact of currency.  Given the significance of data investment management revenues to the Group, with none of our parent company competitors presently represented in that sector, gross margin or net sales is a more meaningful measure of comparative top-line growth. This is because data investment management revenues include pass-through costs, principally for data collection, on which no margin is charged. In addition the Group’s media investment management sector is increasingly buying digital media on its own account and, as a result, the subsequent billings to clients have to be accounted for as revenue as well as billings. Thus, revenues and the revenue growth rate will increase, although the gross margin and gross margin growth rate will remain the same and the latter will present a clearer picture of underlying performance. Because of these two significant factors, the Group, whilst continuing to report revenue and revenue growth, will focus even more on gross margin or net sales margins and operating margins in the future. In 2013 headline gross margin or net sales margin was up 0.4 margin points to 16.5%, achieving the highest reported level in the industry.  On a reported basis, operating margins, before all incentives^11 and income from associates, were 17.3%, up 0.4 margin points, compared with 16.9% last year. The Group’s staff cost to revenue ratio, including incentives, decreased by 0.1 margin point to 58.8% compared with 58.9% in 2012, indicating increased productivity.  Operating costs  During 2013, the Group continued to manage operating costs effectively, with improvements across most cost categories, particularly staff, property, commercial and office costs.  Reported operating costs^12, rose by 5.9% and by 5.2% in constant currency. On a like-for-like basis, total operating and direct costs rose 2.9%, in all cases the growth in costs being lower than the growth in revenues. Reported staff costs, excluding incentives, rose by 5.7% and by 5.1% in constant currency. Incentive payments amounted to £328 million (almost $521 million), which was 17.1% of headline operating profit before incentives and income from associates, compared with £291 million or 16.6% in 2012. Performance in parts of the Group’s data investment management custom businesses, public relations and public affairs, healthcare and direct, digital and interactive businesses fell short of the target performance objectives agreed for 2013, as the like-for-like revenue growth rate was slower in the first nine months of the year, although most improved in the final quarter.  On a like-for-like basis, the average number of people in the Group, excluding associates, in 2013 was 117,115, compared to 117,188 in 2012, a decrease of 0.1%. On the same basis, the total number of people in the Group, excluding associates, at 31 December 2013 was 119,116 compared to 118,292 at 31 December 2012, an increase of over 800 or 0.7%. These average and point-to-point data reflect the continuing sound management of headcount and staff costs in 2013 to balance revenues and costs. On the same basis revenues increased 3.5% and gross margin or net sales 3.4%.  __________________________________ ^11    Short and long-term incentives and the cost of share-based incentives         Including, direct costs, but excluding goodwill impairment, ^12     amortisation of acquired intangibles, investment gains and write-downs         and in 2012 the gain on sale of New York property, restructuring         charges and costs in relation to changes in corporate structure  Interest and taxes  Net finance costs (excluding the revaluation of financial instruments) were down 4.8% at £203.6 million, compared with £213.9 million in 2012, a decrease of £10.3 million. This reflected the beneficial impact of lower net debt funding costs and higher income from investments, partially offset by the cost of higher average gross debt, due to pre-funding of 2014 debt maturities.  The tax rate on headline profit before tax was 20.2% (2012 21.2%) and on reported profit before tax was 21.9% (2012 18.1%). The difference in the reported rate is primarily due to significant deferred tax credits arising in the prior year in relation to acquired intangibles that were non-recurring items.  Earnings and dividend  Headline profit before tax was up 10.7% to £1.458 billion from £1.317 billion, or up 11.2% in constant currencies.  Reported profit before tax rose by 18.7%, to £1.296 billion from £1.092 billion. In constant currencies, reported profit before tax rose by 19.5%.  Profits attributable to share owners rose by 13.8% to £937 million from £823 million. In constant currencies, profits attributable to share owners rose by 13.5%.  Headline diluted earnings per share rose by 10.1% to 80.8p from 73.4p. In constant currencies, earnings per share on the same basis rose by 9.7%. Reported diluted earnings per share rose by 10.8% to 69.6p from 62.8p and increased 10.6% in constant currencies.  In the AGM statement in June 2011, the Board increased the dividend pay-out ratio objective to approximately 40% over time, compared to the 2010 ratio of 31%. This was largely achieved in 2012, ahead of schedule, some eighteen months later and as outlined in the June 2013 AGM statement, the Board gave consideration to the merits of increasing the dividend pay-out ratio from the then current level of approximately 40% to between 45% and 50%. Following that review, the Board decided to target a further increase in the pay-out ratio to 45% over the next two years and, as a result, declares an increase of 20% in the final dividend to 23.65p per share, which together with the interim dividend of 10.56p per share, makes a total of 34.21p per share for 2013, an overall increase of 20%. This represents a dividend pay-out ratio of 42%, compared to a pay-out ratio of 39% in 2012. The record date for the final dividend is 6 June 2014, payable on 7 July 2014. We are targeting a pay-out ratio of 45% in 2014.  Further details of WPP’s financial performance are provided in Appendices 1, 2 and 3.  Regional review  The pattern of revenue growth differed regionally. The tables below give details of revenue and revenue growth by region for 2013, as well as the proportion of Group revenues and operating profit and operating margin by region;  Revenue analysis £          2013     ∆          ∆             ∆        %        2012     % million                  reported     constant^13     LFL^14     group                 group N.         3,745    5.6%       4.4%          2.9%     34.0%    3,547    34.2% America United     1,414    10.9%      10.9%         4.8%*    12.8%    1,275    12.3% Kingdom W Cont.    2,592    6.3%       2.1%          0.5%     23.5%    2,439    23.5% Europe AP, LA, AME,       3,268    5.0%       7.9%          6.1%     29.7%    3,112    30.0% CEE^15 Total      11,019   6.2%       5.7%          3.5%*    100.0%   10,373   100.0% Group  * Like-for-like gross margin or net sales growth of 6.8% in the UK and 3.4% for the Group  Operating profit analysis (Headline PBIT) £          2013    %         %          2012    %         % million                margin      margin*                margin      margin* N.         617     16.5%     17.4%      579     16.3%     17.2% America United     205     14.5%     15.7%      173     13.6%     15.0% Kingdom W Cont.    272     10.5%     12.3%      253     10.4%     11.9% Europe AP, LA,    568     17.4%     18.9%      526     16.9%     18.3% AME, CEE Total      1,662   15.1%     16.5%      1,531   14.8%     16.1% Group  * Headline profit to gross margin or net sales  North America, with constant currency growth of 5.9% in the final quarter and like-for-like growth of 5.4%, achieved their highest quarterly rate of growth in 2013, with particularly strong growth in advertising and media investment management, healthcare and parts of the Group’s digital operations, especially AKQA. Data investment management also performed well, with like-for-like growth of 5.0% in the final quarter.  The United Kingdom’s rate of growth slowed in the final quarter with constant currency growth of 5.5% and like-for-like growth of 2.3%, partly the result of strong comparative rates of growth in the final quarter of 2012. The Group’s advertising and media investment management, public relations and public affairs, direct, digital and interactive and healthcare operations all performed strongly, partly offset by lower revenue growth in data investment management. However, overall gross margin or net sales increased 5.7% on a like-for-like basis, with stronger gross margin growth in the custom research business. On a full year basis, revenues in the United Kingdom rose 10.9% in constant currency and 4.8% like-for-like.  Western Continental Europe, as with the United Kingdom, also slowed slightly in the final quarter compared with a strong third quarter, with constant currency and like-for-like growth of 1.3%. For the year Western Continental Europe revenues grew 0.5% like-for-like (1.9% in the second half) compared with 0.1% in 2012. Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands and Germany all showed good growth in the final quarter, but Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria were tougher.  In Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe, revenue growth in the fourth quarter was fastest, as it has been for most of 2013, up 8.2% in constant currency and up 6.0% like-for-like and stronger than quarter three. Growth in the fourth quarter was driven principally by Latin America, Australia and New Zealand, Central and Eastern Europe and Africa, the CIVETS^16 and the MIST^17. Central and Eastern Europe, after a difficult first half, improved significantly, with like-for-like growth in the second half of over 10%.  __________________________________ ^13    Percentage change at constant currency exchange rates ^14     Like-for-like growth at constant currency exchange rates and excluding         the effects of acquisitions and disposals ^15     Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & Middle East and Central &         Eastern Europe  Latin America showed consistently strong growth for most of 2013, with like-for-like growth in the final quarter up 8.5% and the full year at 9.0%. The Middle East slowed in the fourth quarter, with Africa up over 9% like-for-like. In Central and Eastern Europe, like-for-like revenues were up 12.3% in the fourth quarter, compared with 7.5% in quarter three, with strong growth in the Czech Republic, Russia and Poland. Full year revenues for the BRICs^18, which account for almost $1.9 billion of revenue, were up almost 7%, on a like-for-like basis, with the Next 11^19 and CIVETS up over 9% and over 15% respectively. The MIST was up over 9%.  In 2013, 29.7% of the Group’s revenues came from Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe – slightly down compared with the previous year, although this was the result of the strength of sterling against the currencies of many of the markets in the region. On a constant currency basis, 30.5% of the Group’s revenues came from this region, up 0.7 percentage points compared with 2012 and against the Group’s strategic objective of 40-45% in the next five years.  Business sector review  The pattern of revenue growth also varied by communications services sector and operating brand. The tables below give details of revenue and revenue growth for 2013, as well as the proportion of Group revenues and operating profit and operating margin by communications services sector;  Revenue analysis £         2013     ∆          ∆             ∆        %        2012     % million                reported     constant^20     LFL^21     group                 group AMIM^22   4,579    7.2%       6.9%          5.5%     41.5%    4,273    41.2% Data Inv.      2,549    3.6%       3.0%          1.6%*    23.1%    2,460    23.7% Mgt. PR &      921      0.4%       -0.7%         -1.7%    8.4%     917      8.8% PA^23 BI, HC    2,970    9.1%       8.4%          3.9%     27.0%    2,723    26.3% & SC^24 Total     11,019   6.2%       5.7%          3.5%*    100.0%   10,373   100.0% Group  * Like-for-like gross margin or net sales growth of 2.4% in Data Investment Management and 3.4% for the Group  Operating profit analysis (Headline PBIT) £          2013    %         %          2012    %         % million                margin      margin*                margin      margin* AMIM       824     18.0%     18.5%      755     17.7%     18.0% Data Inv.       264     10.3%     14.3%      247     10.0%     14.0% Mgt. PR & PA    134     14.5%     14.7%      136     14.9%     15.1% BI, HC &   440     14.8%     15.4%      393     14.4%     14.9% SC Total      1,662   15.1%     16.5%      1,531   14.8%     16.1% Group  * Headline profit to gross margin or net sales  ________________________________ ^16    Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa         (accounting for almost $940 million revenues, including associates) ^17     Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey (accounting for almost $635         million revenues, including associates) ^18     Brazil, Russia, India and China (accounting for over $2.5 billion         revenues, including associates)         Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, ^19     Philippines, Vietnam and Turkey - the Group has no operations in Iran         (accounting for almost $835 million revenues, including associates) ^20     Percentage change at constant currency exchange rates ^21     Like-for-like growth at constant currency exchange rates and excluding         the effects of acquisitions and disposals ^22     Advertising, Media Investment Management ^23     Public Relations & Public Affairs ^24     Branding and Identity, Healthcare and Specialist Communications  In 2013, almost 35% of the Group’s revenues came from direct, digital and interactive, up over 2.0 percentage points from the previous year and growing well over 7% like-for-like over 2012.  Advertising and Media Investment Management  In constant currencies, advertising and media investment management was the strongest performing sector, with constant currency revenues up 7.9% in the final quarter and like-for-like up 6.5%, very similar to the third quarter like-for-like growth of 6.6%. Advertising grew well in North America, Asia Pacific and Africa as it did in the third quarter, with media investment management showing particularly strong like-for-like growth across all regions and especially in North America, with double digit growth. Full year revenues were up 5.5% like-for-like.  Of the Group’s advertising networks, JWT, Ogilvy & Mather and Grey performed especially well in North America in the fourth quarter, with Y&R performing strongly in the United Kingdom. However, the Group’s advertising businesses in Western Continental Europe generally remained challenged, with like-for-like revenues under pressure. Growth in the Group’s media investment management businesses has been very consistent throughout the year, with constant currency revenues up almost 11% for the year and like-for-like growth up almost 10%. tenthavenue, the “engagement” network focused on out-of-home media, also performed strongly in the fourth quarter, with like-for-like revenue growth up over 16%. The strong revenue growth across most of the Group’s businesses, together with good cost control, resulted in the combined reported operating margin of this sector improving by 0.3 margin points to 18.0%. In 2013, JWT, Ogilvy & Mather, Y&R, Grey and United generated net new business billings of £2.332 billion ($3.732 billion). In the same year, GroupM, the Group’s media investment management company, which includes Mindshare, MEC, MediaCom, Maxus, GroupM Search and Xaxis, together with tenthavenue, generated net new business billings of £3.194 billion ($5.110 billion). The Group totalled £6.119 billion ($9.791 billion) in net new billings versus £3.894 billion ($6.231 billion) in 2012, up over 57%.  Data Investment Management  On a constant currency basis, data investment management revenues grew 3.9% in the fourth quarter, with gross margin or net sales up even stronger at 4.0%. On a like-for-like basis revenues were up 1.2% with gross margin up 1.9%. On a full year basis, constant currency revenues were up 3.0%, with like-for-like revenues up 1.6%, with the second half much stronger than the first half. More significantly, gross margin was up 2.4% like-for-like, a turnaround of the trend seen during 2012. North America, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East performed well above the average in the fourth quarter, as they did for the year as a whole. The United Kingdom and Western Continental Europe were more difficult. There seems to be a growing recognition of the value of “real” data businesses, rather than those that depend on third party data. Reported operating margins improved 0.3 margin points to 10.3% (reported gross margin or net sales margins also improved 0.3 margin points to 14.3%). Although there has been marked improvement during 2013, the weakest sub-sector continues to be like-for-like revenue growth in the custom businesses in mature markets, (with North America maybe now the exception), where discretionary spending remains under review by clients. Custom businesses in faster growth markets and syndicated and semi-syndicated businesses in all markets, remain robust, with strong like-for-like revenue and gross margin or net sales growth.  Public Relations and Public Affairs  In constant currencies the Group’s public relations and public affairs businesses returned to top-line growth in the fourth quarter, as forecast at the third quarter results presentations, with constant currency revenues up 2.4% and like-for-like growth of 1.2%. However, overall 2013 was difficult for many of the Group’s public relations and public affairs brands, particularly in North America, Continental Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Despite careful cost management operating margins fell by 0.4 margin points to 14.5%.  Branding and Identity, Healthcare and Specialist Communications  At the Group’s branding and identity, healthcare and specialist communications businesses (including direct, digital and interactive), constant currency revenues grew strongly at 8.4% with like-for-like growth of 3.9%. Like-for-like revenue growth slipped slightly in the fourth quarter, due primarily to slower growth in parts of the Group’s branding & identity and specialist communications businesses, but overall the second half was much stronger than the first half on a like-for-like basis. AKQA, the leading digital agency acquired in July 2012, performed particularly well with full year like-for-like revenues up over 20%, with the fourth quarter even stronger. Operating margins, for the sector as a whole, improved, up 0.4 margin points to 14.8%.  Client review  Including associates, the Group currently employs almost 175,000 full-time people (up almost 3%, from almost 170,000 the previous year) in over 3,000 offices in 110 countries. It services 351 of the Fortune Global 500 companies, all 30 of the Dow Jones 30, 69 of the NASDAQ 100, 31 of the Fortune e-50 and 768 national or multi-national clients in three or more disciplines. 489 clients are served in four disciplines and these clients account for over 57.5% of Group revenues. This reflects the increasing opportunities for co-ordination and co-operation or “horizontality” between activities both nationally and internationally and at a client and country level. The Group also works with 393 clients in 6 or more countries. The Group estimates that well over a third of new assignments in the year were generated through the joint development of opportunities by two or more Group companies. “Horizontality” is clearly becoming an increasingly important part of client strategies, particularly as they continue to invest in brand in slower-growth markets and both capacity and brand in faster-growth markets.  Cash flow highlights  In 2013, operating profit was £1.410 billion, depreciation, amortisation and goodwill impairment £438 million, non-cash share-based incentive charges £105 million, net interest paid £203 million, tax paid £273 million, capital expenditure £285 million and other net cash inflows £27 million. Free cash flow available for working capital requirements, debt repayment, acquisitions, share buy-backs and dividends was, therefore, £1.219 billion.  This free cash flow was absorbed by £221 million in net cash acquisition payments and investments (of which £28 million was for earnout payments, with the balance of £193 million for investments and new acquisition payments net of disposal proceeds), £197 million in share buy-backs and £397 million in dividends, a total outflow of £815 million. This resulted in a net cash inflow of £404 million, before any changes in working capital.  A summary of the Group’s unaudited cash flow statement and notes as at 31 December 2013 is provided in Appendix 1.  Acquisitions  In line with the Group’s strategic focus on new markets, new media, data investment management and horizontality, the Group completed 62 transactions in the year; 38 acquisitions and investments were classified in new markets (of which 32 were in new media), 22 in data investment management, including data analytics and the application of technology, with the balance of 2 driven by individual client or agency needs.  Specifically, in 2013, acquisitions and increased equity stakes have been completed in advertising and media investment management in Canada, Kenya, Colombia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand; in data investment management in the United States, Brazil and Myanmar; in public relations and public affairs in the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Hong Kong; in direct, digital and interactive in the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, India, Singapore and Australia. Further acquisitions and investments were made in the first two months of 2014 in advertising and media investment management in Russia; in direct, digital and interactive in the United States, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Africa, China and Vietnam.  There appears to be some growing evidence that excessive, competitive acquisition pricing together with lower standards for compliance, driven by a desire to play catch-up are resulting in slower, and even negative growth rates for competitors with several acquired companies in Brazil, India and China.  Balance sheet highlights  Average net debt in 2013 decreased by £244 million to £2.989 billion, compared to £3.233 billion in 2012, at 2013 exchange rates. On 31 December 2013 net debt was £2.240 billion, against £2.821 billion on 31 December 2012, a decrease of £581 million (a decrease of £634 million at 2013 exchange rates), reflecting improvements in working capital and the redemption of the £450 million Convertible Bond, reinforced by lower acquisition spending in 2013. This improvement has continued in the first six weeks of 2014, with average net debt of £2.088 billion, compared with £2.870 billion in the first six weeks of 2013, a decrease of £782 million (a decrease of £827 million at 2014 exchange rates). The net debt figure of £2.240 billion at 31 December, compares with a current market capitalisation of approximately £17.9 billion ($29.9 billion), giving an enterprise value of £20.1 billion ($33.6 billion).  Your Board continues to examine ways of deploying its EBITDA of almost £1.9 billion (over $3.0 billion) and substantial free cash flow of over £1.2 billion (almost $2.0 billion) per annum, to enhance share owner value. The Group’s current market value of £17.9 billion implies an EBITDA multiple of 9.4 times, on the basis of the full year 2013 results. Including year end net debt of £2.240 billion, the Group’s enterprise value to EBITDA multiple is 10.6 times.  A summary of the Group’s unaudited balance sheet and notes as at 31 December 2013 is provided in Appendix 1.  Return of funds to share owners  As outlined in the June 2013 AGM statement, the Board gave consideration to the merits of increasing the dividend pay-out ratio from its current level of approximately 40% to between 45% and 50%. Following that deliberation, the Board decided to target an increase in the pay-out ratio to 45% over the next two years and, following the strong first-half results, your Board raised the interim dividend by 20%, around 10 percentage points higher than the growth in headline diluted earnings per share and a pay-out ratio in the first half of 37%. For the full year, headline diluted earnings per share rose by 10.1% and the final dividend has also been increased by 20%, bringing the total dividend for the year to 34.21p per share, up 20%, 10 percentage points higher than the growth in headline diluted earnings per share. This represents a pay-out ratio of 42% for 2013 compared with 39% in 2012. Dividends paid in respect of 2013 will total almost £460 million for the year.  In 2013, 17.4 million shares, or 1.4% of the issued share capital, were purchased at an average price of £11.31 per share, none of which were cancelled.  Current trading  January 2014 revenues were ahead of budget and on a like-for-like basis were up 5.7% with gross margin or net sales up 4.1%, reflecting the divergence between revenue and gross margin or net sales in the Group’s media and data investment management businesses as noted earlier. All regions were up, with North America, the United Kingdom and Latin America up well above the average gross margin growth. All sectors, except branding & identity and the specialist communications businesses were up with advertising and media investment management and direct, digital and interactive, up the strongest.  Outlook  Macroeconomic and industry context  2013, the Group’s twenty eighth year, was another record year. In some respects it was easier than 2012, with faster like-for-like revenue growth, 3.5% versus 2.9%. We reached our margin targets on a constant currency basis and did even better like-for-like. But following a major strengthening of sterling against most of the faster growth markets’ currencies, we missed our margin target in reportable sterling terms. Encouragingly, having budgeted around 3% like-for-like revenue growth at the beginning of 2013, our forecast for full year growth became progressively stronger, and we finished the year with like-for-like growth of 3.5%. This, combined with intelligent control of headcount and discretionary spend, improved profitability and replenished bonus pools. However, pressures within the industry are becoming more and more intense, with clients understandably continuing to demand more for less and consolidating competitors discounting their pricing heavily, particularly in media investment management.  So why was 2013, although another record year, still difficult? Clients were certainly in better shape with profits at an all-time high as a proportion of GDP, margins generally stronger, share prices rising as institutional investors rotated out of government securities and with clients sitting on, in the case of US-based multi-nationals, over $4 trillion in cash with relatively unleveraged balance sheets. But, whilst clients are now certainly in stronger shape than post-Lehman in September 2008, they still lack the necessary confidence given that global GDP growth remains sub-trend and the "grey swans", or known unknowns remain - although most, if not all, of the latter are whiter. Black swans are the unknown unknowns, which by definition we do not know what they are.  There are at least four or five “grey swans”, perhaps even six now in the case of the United Kingdom. Firstly, the potential fragility of the Eurozone, certainly better since one of the Super Marios, Mario Draghi, took over as the President of the ECB, but still subject to potential shocks, for example, from the implementation of banking stress tests later this year and the still socially and politically unacceptable levels of unemployment and youth unemployment, for example in Spain. The Eurozone has also been aided by others stressing the need to reduce unemployment and surrendering the inflation rate constraint, for example, by both the former and new Chairpersons of the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States, the re-elected Prime Minister Abe in Japan and Mark Carney, the new Governor of the Bank of England in the United Kingdom. This has certainly helped equity securities too.  Second, the prospects for the Middle-East, are probably now, if anything, better than a year ago. Although Syria remains a mess and there remain challenges in Libya and between Israel and Palestine, President Putin’s intervention on the chemical weapons issue in Syria and President Rouhani’s initiatives from Tehran have improved the political climate. Perhaps, the next election in Egypt will also bring more stability, although the region remains generally fragile to say the least.  Third, a China or BRICs hard or soft landing. Most, if not all of these markets have suffered a slowdown in 2013 and, following the tapering noises from the United States, significant currency weakness, with the exception of China. However, they still remain faster growth markets than the slower growth mature markets of the West.  We remain bullish on China. The new leadership has immediately addressed issues of corruption and the new Plenum document reinforced the strategic directions of the Twelfth Five Year Plan, with an emphasis on lower quantum, higher quality GDP growth, a switch to consumption from savings, a healthcare and social security safety net and a strengthening of the service sector.  We also remain bullish on Russia. The Sochi Winter Olympics, the Putin Olympics, has surprised and delighted participants, NBC and viewers, and as long as the oil price remains over $80 the economy should remain solid. Brazil and India both face elections shortly and politics and the economies are dominated by electoral considerations. It looks likely that President Dilma Roussaieff will be re- elected, particularly if Brazil win the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It should be a great tournament, despite infrastructure issues and social unrest, which will continue. After the election, growth should resume on towards the Rio Olympics in 2016. India may be a different kettle of fish. The election may not deliver a clear cut result and although the BJP looks stronger, there will be a coalition, which may result in continued stasis.  However, the continued increase of the hundreds of millions in the new middle-classes in all these countries seems to be the real economic motive force, particularly for the fast-moving consumer goods. On its 25th Anniversary, CNBC together with PricewaterhouseCoopers took a look at the World in 25 more years. China was projected as the world's biggest economy with GDP of $34 trillion versus $8 trillion now, the USA second at $28 trillion (but still with markedly higher GDP per capita) versus $16 trillion now, and India third. India would be the most populous nation with 1.6 billion people and China second with 1.4 billion. We continue to significantly focus our future on the growth of these markets.  Fourth, and probably still most importantly, dealing with the US deficit and a record level of $16 trillion of debt in the most effective way. Despite the sequester, which slowed growth in the United States in the first half of 2013 by 100 basis points or so and the Congressional agreement to kick the can down the road further than usual, these issues remain to be resolved. In addition, we have to come off the post-Lehman cheap money drug at some time and the scale and speed of tapering remains the key issue for the strength of equity and currency markets. This remains the elephant in the room, as the United States is still currently twice the size of the Chinese economy at around $16 trillion GDP versus over $8 trillion out of a global total of around $85 trillion.  Fifth, and more parochially, the decisions to launch referenda for Scottish independence and Britain’s European Union membership, whilst no doubt being astute political moves, add further uncertainty to the United Kingdom economy until and after the next United Kingdom General Election in 2015.  Finally, whilst economic conditions may have generally slightly improved this year, a further geopolitical risk emerged at the World Economic Forum in Davos last January - the Sino-Japanese spat over the Islands of Diaoyu/Senkaku and the willingness of both sides to engage in a "limited" military action to resolve it. This reminded everyone of historical precedents, where seemingly small events triggered bigger ones.  So all in all, whilst clients may be more confident than they were in September 2008 post-Lehman, with stronger balance sheets, sub-trend global GDP growth combined with these levels of uncertainty and strengthened corporate governance scrutiny make them unwilling to take further risks. They remain focussed on a strategy of adding capacity and brand building in both fast growth geographic markets and functional markets, like digital and containing or reducing capacity, perhaps with brand building to maintain or increase market share, in the mature, slow growth markets. This approach also has the apparent virtue of limiting fixed cost increases and increasing variable costs, although we naturally believe that marketing is an investment not a cost. We see little reason, if any, for this pattern of behaviour to change in 2014, with continued caution being the watchword. There is certainly no evidence to suggest any such change in behaviour so far in 2014.  The pattern for 2014 looks very similar to 2013, perhaps with slightly increased client confidence enhanced by the mini-quadrennial events of the Winter Olympics at Sochi, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil (which will re-position perceptions of Russia and Latin America, just like the Beijing Olympics did for China, the World Cup did for South Africa and London 2012 did for the United Kingdom) and the mid-term Congressional Elections in the United States. Forecasts of worldwide real GDP growth still hover around 3.6%, with inflation of 2.1% giving nominal GDP growth of around 5.7% for 2014, although they have been reduced recently and may be reduced further in due course. Advertising as a proportion of GDP should at least remain constant overall, although it is still at relatively depressed historical levels, particularly in mature markets, post-Lehman and advertising should grow at least at a similar rate as GDP, buoyed by incremental branding investments in the under- branded faster growing markets. Although both consumers and corporates seem to be increasingly cautious and risk averse, they should continue to purchase or invest in brands in both fast and slow growth markets to stimulate top line sales growth. As the former leading Chief Investment Officer of one of the largest investment institutions said perceptively, companies may be running out of ways of reducing costs and have to focus more on top line growth. Merger and acquisition activity may be regarded as an alternative way of doing this, particularly funded by cheap long-term debt, but we believe clients may regard this as a more risky way than investing in marketing and brand and hence growing market share.  All in all, 2014 looks to be another demanding year, as a strong UK pound and weak fast growth market currencies continue to take their toll on our reported operating margins.  Financial guidance  The budgets for 2014 have been prepared on a cautious basis as usual (hopefully), but continue to reflect the faster growing geographical markets of Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe and faster growing functional sectors of advertising, media investment management and direct, digital and interactive to some extent moderated by the slower growth in the mature markets of the United States and Western Europe. Our 2014 budgets show the following;    *Like-for-like revenue and gross margin growth of over 3%   *Target operating margin and gross margin or net sales margin improvement     of 0.3 margin points excluding the impact of currency  In 2014, our prime focus will remain on growing revenues and gross margin faster than the industry average, driven by our leading position in the new markets, in new media, in data investment management, including data analytics and the application of technology, creativity and “horizontality”. At the same time, we will concentrate on meeting our operating margin objectives by managing absolute levels of costs and increasing our flexibility in order to adapt our cost structure to significant market changes and by ensuring that the benefits of the restructuring investments taken in 2012 continue to be realised. The initiatives taken by the parent company in the areas of human resources, property, procurement, information technology and practice development continue to improve the flexibility of the Group’s cost base. Flexible staff costs (including incentives, freelance and consultants) remain close to historical highs of around 7.5% of revenues and continue to position the Group extremely well should current market conditions deteriorate.  The Group continues to improve co-operation and co-ordination among its operating companies in order to add value to our clients’ businesses and our people’s careers, an objective which has been specifically built into short-term incentive plans. We may, in addition, decide that a significant proportion of operating company incentive pools are funded and allocated on the basis of Group- wide performance over the coming years. “Horizontality” has been accelerated through the appointment of 41 global client leaders for our major clients, accounting for over one third of total revenues of $17 billion and 16 country managers in a growing number of test markets and sub- regions. Emphasis has been laid on the areas of media investment management, healthcare, sustainability, government, new technologies, new markets, retailing, shopper marketing, internal communications, financial services and media and entertainment. The Group continues to lead the industry, in co-ordinating investment geographically and functionally through parent company initiatives and winning Group pitches. For example, the Group has been very successful in the recent wave of consolidation in the pharmaceutical and shopper marketing industries and the resulting "team" pitches.  Our business remains geographically and functionally well positioned to compete successfully and to deliver on our long-term targets:    *Revenue and gross margin or net sales growth greater than the industry     average   *Improvement in operating margin and gross margin or net sales margin of     0.3 margin points or more, excluding the impact of currency, depending on     revenue growth and staff cost to revenue ratio improvement of 0.2 margin     points or more   *Annual headline diluted EPS growth of 10% to 15% p.a. delivered through     revenue growth, margin expansion, acquisitions and share buy-backs  Uses of funds  As capital expenditure remains relatively stable, our focus is on the alternative uses of funds between acquisitions, share buy-backs and dividends. We have increasingly come to the view, that currently, the markets favour consistent increases in dividends and higher sustainable pay-out ratios, along with anti-dilutive progressive buy-backs and, of course, sensibly-priced strategic acquisitions.  Buy-back strategy  Share buy-backs will continue to be targeted to absorb any share dilution from issues of options or restricted stock. However, given the reduced operating and gross margin or net sales margin targets of 0.3 margin points, the targeted level of share buy-backs will be increased from around 1% of the outstanding share capital to 2-3%. If achieved, the impact on headline EPS would be equivalent to an improvement of 0.2 margin points. In addition, the Company does also have considerable free cash flow to take advantage of any anomalies in market values, particularly as the average 2013 net debt to EBITDA ratio is 1.6 times, at the low end of our market guidance of 1.5-2.0 times, and will come down further this year.  Acquisition strategy  There is a very significant pipeline of reasonably priced small- and medium-sized potential acquisitions, with the exception of Brazil and India and digital in the United States, where prices seem to have got ahead of themselves because of pressure on competitors to catch up. This is clearly reflected in some of the operational issues that are starting to surface elsewhere in the industry, particularly in fast growing markets like China, Brazil and India. Transactions will be focused on our strategy of new markets, new media and data investment management, including the application of new technology and big data. Net acquisition spend is currently targeted at around £300 to £400 million per annum and we will continue to seize opportunities in line with our strategy to increase the Group’s exposure to:    *Faster growing geographic markets and sectors   *Data investment management, including the application of technology and     big data  So far in 2014, acquisitions have already been made in the first two months in the United States, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Africa, China and Vietnam.  Last but not least………  Efficient marketing companies always watch their costs closely. And when they encounter difficult times, they examine them with a rigour bordering on ruthlessness. Over the last five years or so, there cannot have been a single WPP client who failed to interrogate their advertising and promotional costs to within an inch of their lives in the hope of finding what they were hoping to find: savings that carried no financial penalty.  There have, of course, been some reductions in advertising spend, and in other forms of marketing communication. But for an area of expenditure whose return has been historically more difficult to evaluate than many others, marketing communications has shown itself to be remarkably resilient.  In part, this has been because more sophisticated methods of measurement have allowed companies to authorise marketing expenditure with a higher level of confidence; and in part because of the stark reality of competitive life.  There is a limit to how much you can cut before you begin to eat away at the very brand on whose future profit stream you depend. There is no such limit to the degree to which you can make a brand more desirable; or if there is, it is a limitation not of financial resources but of the human imagination.  In the early part of the 20^th century, Sir Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics, is reported to have told the staff of his laboratory, “We haven’t any money so we’ve got to think.”  Over the last few years, a similar demand, though thankfully not quite as draconian, has been made of our companies’ people around the world; and they have responded magnificently. Better than any algorithm, the human mind can perform a kind of alchemy that turns ideas, words, pictures and stories into deeply satisfying objects that the world can take pleasure from.  And, around the world, the tens of thousands of human minds that WPP is supremely fortunate to represent have helped create real wealth for our tens of thousands of appreciative clients.  As is always the case, and never more so than in testing times, any success that WPP may enjoy can be no more than the cumulative success of our talented people. We thank them all.  To access WPP's 2013 preliminary results financial tables, please visit: http://www.wpp.com/investor  This announcement has been filed at the Company Announcements Office of the London Stock Exchange and is being distributed to all owners of Ordinary shares and American Depository Receipts. Copies are available to the public at the Company’s registered office.  The following cautionary statement is included for safe harbour purposes in connection with the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 introduced in the United States of America. This announcement may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the US federal securities laws. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially including adjustments arising from the annual audit by management and the Company’s independent auditors. For further information on factors which could impact the Company and the statements contained herein, please refer to public filings by the Company with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The statements in this announcement should be considered in light of these risks and uncertainties.  Contact:  WPP Sir Martin Sorrell, Paul Richardson, Chris Sweetland, Feona McEwan, Chris Wade +44 20 7408 2204 or Kevin McCormack, Fran Butera +1 212-632-2235 or Belinda Rabano, +86 1360 1078 488 www.wppinvestor.com  
Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.