6 Percent Revenue Boost for WPP

NEW YORK WPP Group said its first-quarter revenue rose nearly 6 percent to $1.7 billion. On a like-for-like basis, excluding acquisitions and currency fluctuations, revenue was up almost 2 percent. (Adjusted to account for the weakness of the U.S. dollar overseas, the hike was more than 12 percent.)

In North America, revenue improved almost 11 percent; in the U.K., the gain was 12 percent; in the Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and Middle East region, revenue was up more than 28 percent. European revenue rose about 7 percent.

By operating sector, advertising and media services continued to lead the way, posting an increase of more than 14 percent; consulting grew by 3 percent; and branding, healthcare and specialty communications yielded a 19 percent gain. Public relations and public affairs, which the company said has been hit hardest by the recession, increased almost 6 percent.

WPP also said full-year margin forecasts are in line with the company’s target of an increase of 0.8 percent margin points to 13.8 percent. Margin targets are in the range of 14-15 percent for 2005 and at least 15 percent for 2006.

The London-based holding company reported net new-business billings of $926 million for the quarter. In a statement, WPP said: “There are an increasing number of new business opportunities, as clients turn their attention to managing for growth and the top line, rather than focusing totally on costs. In addition, there are signs that corporate capital expenditures (particularly in technology) are picking up, possibly filling any potential vacuum in consumer spending.”