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Notes 21-25

24. Risk management policies

Foreign currency risk

The Group's results in pounds sterling are subject to fluctuation as a result of exchange rate movements. The Group does not hedge this translation exposure to its earnings but does hedge the currency element of its net assets using foreign currency borrowings, cross-currency swaps and forward foreign exchange contracts.

Interest rate risk

The Group is exposed to interest rate risk on both interest-bearing assets and interest-bearing liabilities. The Group has a policy of actively managing its interest rate risk exposure while recognising that fixing rates on all its debt eliminates the possibility of benefiting from rate reductions and similarly, having all its debt at floating rates unduly exposes the Group to increases in rates.

Liquidity risk

The Group actively maintains a mixture of long- and short-term committed facilities that are designed to ensure the Group has sufficient available funds to meet current and forecast financial requirements as cost-effectively as possible. As at 31 December 2007 the Group has a committed credit facility of £759 million which was undrawn.

Capital risk management

The Group manages its capital to ensure that entities in the Group will be able to continue as a going concern while maximising the return to stakeholders through the optimisation of the debt and equity balance. The capital structure of the Group consists of debt, which includes the borrowings disclosed in note 10, cash and cash equivalents and equity attributable to equity holders of the parent, comprising issued capital, reserves and retained earnings as disclosed in notes 26 and 27.

Credit risk

The Group's principal financial assets are cash and short-term deposits, trade and other receivables and investments, the carrying values of which represent the Group's maximum exposure to credit risk in relation to financial assets, as shown in note 25.

The Group's credit risk is primarily attributable to its trade receivables. The majority of the Group's trade receivables are due from large national or multinational companies where the risk of default is considered low. The amounts presented in the balance sheet are net of allowances for doubtful receivables, estimated by the Group's management based on prior experience and their assessment of the current economic environment.

The credit risk on liquid funds and derivative financial instruments is limited because the counterparties are banks with high credit-ratings assigned by international credit-rating agencies.

A relatively small number of clients contribute a significant percentage of the Group's consolidated revenues. The Group's clients generally are able to reduce advertising and marketing spending or cancel projects at any time for any reason. There can be no assurance that any of the Group's clients will continue to utilise the Group's services to the same extent, or at all, in the future. A significant reduction in advertising and marketing spending by, or the loss of one or more of, the Group's largest clients, if not replaced by new client accounts or an increase in business from existing clients, would adversely affect the Group's prospects, business, financial condition and results of operations.

Sensitivity analysis

The following sensitivity analysis addresses the effect of currency and interest rate risks on the Group's financial instruments. The analysis assumes that all hedges are highly effective.

Currency risk

A 10% weakening of sterling against the Group's major currencies would result in the following losses, which would be posted directly to equity. These losses would arise on the retranslation of foreign currency denominated borrowings and derivatives designated as effective net investment hedges of overseas net assets. These losses would be offset in equity by a corresponding gain arising on the retranslation of the related hedged foreign currency net asets. A 10% strengthening of sterling would have an equal and opposite effect. There are no other material foreign exchange exposures which would create gains or losses to the functional reporting currencies of individual entities in the Group.

  2007
£m
2006
£m
United States Dollar 51.8 10.7
Euro 44.0 66.0
Interest rate risk

A one percentage point increase or decrease in market interest rates for all currencies in which the Group had borrowings at 31 December 2007 would increase or decrease profit before tax respectively by approximately £11.1 million (2006: £7.7 million). The effect on equity as at 31 December 2007 would be £22.7 million (2006: £11.6 million). This has been calculated by applying the interest rate change to the Group's variable rate borrowings.