WPP reports growth in third quarter revenue but says UK business slowed after “perhaps the first signs of Brexit anxiety”
Sir Martin Sorrell said the company would target like-for-like growth of around 2% this year. Reuters

Shares in WPP slid almost 2% early on Thursday (27 April), after the advertising giant reported a slow start to 2017, amid a slowdown in trading in North America and the loss of some major accounts.

Like-for-like sales in the first three months of the year rose 0.8% from the corresponding period in 2016, largely in line with market expectations, but slower than the 2.1% growth recorded in the final quarter of last year.

The slowdown in growth was attributed to the loss of contracts with AT&T and Volkswagen in the fourth quarter of 2016 and in the first three months of this year respectively. Meanwhile, reported billings rose 9.2% year-on-year to £13bn, while reported revenue were 16.9% higher than in the corresponding period last year to £3.6bn. The rate of growth, however, moderated to 1.2% on a dollar basis.

WPP said revenue rose in all its regions, apart from North America, the company's main market. However, Britain, Europe and Latin America delivered a strong performance, as did public relations and public affairs and digital sectors.

Despite the slow start to the year, the FTSE 100-listed group remained optimistic for the remainder of 2017, thanks in part to new contract wins, which are expected to provide new momentum to the business.

Chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell said the company would target like-for-like revenue and net sales growth of approximately 2%.

"In 2017, our prime focus will remain on growing revenue and net sales faster than the industry average," said WPP.

"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 2015 and 2016 continue to be realised."