WPP Sales Rise More Than 6% in First Two Months of 2014

WPP Plc, the world’s largest advertising company, increased revenue by more than 6 percent in the first two months of 2014 as business in the U.S. and western Europe improved, Chief Executive Officer Martin Sorrell said.

Business in February was stronger than in January, Sorrell said in an interview in London today. By comparison, like-for-like sales in the first quarter of last year rose 2.1 percent. Business in the U.S. is strengthening and western Europe is a “little better,” said the CEO of the London-based company. WPP shares rose as much as 3.1 percent in London trading.

Markets in Asia have weakened from previous quarters but are still outperforming the U.S. and western Europe, Sorrell said at an Advertising Week conference in London today. The company, whose advertising agencies include Ogilvy & Mather, Grey and digital unit AKQA, plans to raise as much as 45 percent of revenue from fast-growing markets and digital operations in the next five years.

WPP said last month that it missed its earnings-margin target for 2013 because of currency fluctuations. WPP is set to lose its top spot in the industry when Publicis Groupe SA and Omnicom Group Inc. complete their merger later this year. Sorrell said WPP agencies are picking up four executives leaving Publicis and Omnicom for every one of its own employees going in the other direction.

WPP shares were up 2.1 percent at 1,240 pence as of 4:01 p.m. in London. Publicis fell 0.2 percent to 65.45 euros in Paris and Omnicom climbed 0.6 percent to $72.73 in New York.

Russia Difficulty

Publicis and Omnicom, which announced in July that they are combining, are awaiting approval from Chinese regulators, after receiving clearance in all other jurisdictions including the U.S. and Europe.

Sorrell also said there is “short-term turbulence” because of Russia’s conflict with Ukraine. “Russian current events have shaken clients’ confidence,” he said, adding that Russia accounts for 2 percent of WPP’s revenue.

(Corrects comparative figure to like-for-like number in second paragraph of story published on March 31.)
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