WPP Group’s reported revenue, affected by the strength of the U.K. pound, rose 1.5 percent to $4.3 billion in the first quarter. Like-for-like growth, eliminating the impact of currency, climbed 7 percent in the period.
The London-based holding company said the start of 2014 is similar to 2013’s fourth quarter, with growth showing continued improvement across geographies and sectors. The strongest performing disciplines were advertising, media investment, branding and identity, healthcare and specialist communications, which includes direct and digital. Conversely, data investment management slowed from the final quarter of 2013. WPP noted "particularly strong" growth in North America and the U.K., where operations showed an increase of 7.3 percent, which made it the strongest performing region in the quarter.
In reporting $1.3 billion of first-quarter new business, the company appeared to reference the proposed Publicis Groupe-Omnicom merger even as doubts grow about its completion. “Recent new business activity and net new business wins surge as clients react to past and potential changes in the agency industry’s structure,” WPP underscored.
WPP said the pattern for 2014 looks very similar to last year, albeit with improved marketer confidence because of slightly stronger global GDP growth forecasts and high-profile events like the Sochi Winter Olympics, FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the U.S. mid-term congressional elections. WPP continues to forecast revenue growth of over 3 percent for the year.
“All in all, 2014 looks likely to be another demanding year as a strong United Kingdom pound and weak faster-growth market currencies continue to take their toll on our reported results, but if budgets and quarter one preliminary revised forecasts are met, 2014 will be another strong year,” the company said.