WPP reports like-for-like sales down 0.1% in first financial update since Sorrell exit

Mark Read, joint-chief operating officer of WPP

WPP has reported a like-for-like net sales drop of 0.1% for the first quarter in its first trading update since the departure of chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell.

Its performance exceeded the forecasts of analysts who had predicted a 1% decline or worse, and was described as “in line with our expectations” by the group’s executive chairman Robert Quarta.

The figures showed like-for-like net sales up 1.6% in the UK and 2.3% in Asia and Latin America.

North America and Western Europe fared less well, however, down 2.4% and 0.2% respectively.

Overall the group reported revenue down 4% at £3.6bn and and reported net sales down 5.1% at just under £3bn.

Newly installed chief operating officers Mark Read and Andrew Scott said in a joint statement that they would now be “taking a fresh look at our strategy” as they attempt to return the world’s biggest advertising business to growth.

“Our priority is to focus on growth,” they said. “We will proactively address the under-performing parts of our business and we need to ensure that our capital is deployed to those areas that will grow fastest and maximise shareholder value.

“Looking ahead, we will get even closer to our clients, and provide faster, more agile, more integrated solutions with data and technology at their heart – making it simpler to access the wealth of talent, creativity and capabilities we have within WPP.

“Concentrating our efforts on stimulating growth for our clients, and organising the group to make that possible, is the best way to restore growth for WPP and all its stakeholders.”

It is not yet clear if they will persist with Sorrell’s strategy of aggressively consolidating WPP’s agencies, which he had promised to accelerate before stepping down earlier this month.

Nor did the trading update address speculation that the group’s research division, Kantar, could be the subject of a management buyout in the first stage of a breakup of its component parts.

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