WPP 2013 Preliminary Results

27 Feb 2014

  • Billings up 4.1% at over £46 billion
  • Revenues up 6.2% at over £11 billion
  • Like-for-like revenue up 3.5%, with second half up 4.6%
  • Operating margin at historical high of 15.1%, up 0.3 margin points, up 0.5 margin points in constant currency and 0.6 margin points like-for-like
  • Gross margin or net sales margin at historical high of 16.5%, up 0.4 margin points
  • Impact of exchange rates in second half reduced reported margin
  • Headline profit before interest and tax £1.662 billion, up over 8%
  • Headline profit before tax £1.458 billion, up almost 11%
  • Profit before tax £1.296 billion, up almost 19%
  • Headline diluted earnings per share of 80.8p, up over 10%
  • Dividends per share of 34.21p, up 20%, and pay-out ratio of 42% versus 39% last year, with a targeted dividend pay-out ratio of 45% in 2014
  • Share buy-back target raised to 2-3% of share capital against current 1%
  • Strategic targets raised for each of faster growth markets and new media sectors to 40-45% of revenues from 35-40% over the next five years
  • Constant currency net debt at 31 December 2013 down £634 million on same date in 2012, with average net debt in 2013 down £244 million over 2012
  • Good start to 2014 with January like-for-like revenues up 5.7% and gross margin or net sales up 4.1%
Key figures
£ Million 2013

Δ reported1

Δ constant2

% revenues 2012 % revenues
Revenue 11,019 6.2% 5.7% - 10,373 -
Gross Margin (Net Sales) 10,076 5.9% 5.4% 91.4% 9,515 91.7
Headline EBITA3 1,896 8.0% 8.4% 17.2% 1,756 16.9%
Headline PBIT4 1,662 8.5% 9.0% 15.1%* 1,531 14.8
EPS headline diluted5 80.8p 10.1% 9.7% - 73.4 -
Diluted EPS6 69.6p 10.8% 10.6% - 62.8 -
Dividends per share 34.21p 20.0% 20.0% - 28.51 -

* Gross margin or net sales margin of 16.5% (2012 16.1%)

Full Year highlights
  • Reported billings increased 4.1% to £46.2bn driven by a strong leadership position in all net new business league tables
  • Revenue growth of 6.2%, with like-for-like growth of 3.5%, 2.2% growth from acquisitions and 0.5% from currency
  • Like-for-like revenue growth in all regions, characterised by strong growth in Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East and the United Kingdom and all but one sector (public relations and public affairs), with strong growth in advertising and media investment management and branding and identity, healthcare and specialist communications (including direct, digital and interactive)
  • Like-for-like gross margin or net sales growth at 3.4%, in-line with like-for-like revenue growth of 3.5%, but with stronger growth in the Group’s data investment management businesses, offset by lower gross margin growth in media investment management, as we see the initial impact of increased digital inventory trading, where billings effectively become revenues in comparison with traditional media buying. Revenues are, therefore, likely to grow faster than before and faster than gross margin. As a result, we will be focusing more on our gross margin or net sales margin
  • Headline EBITDA growth of 8.0% giving 0.3 margin points improvement, with like-for-like operating costs (+2.9%) rising slower than revenues
  • Strength of sterling in the second half and final quarter lowered reported margins by 0.2 margin points. In the second half of 2013 and more particularly in the final quarter, when approximately two-thirds and 40% respectively of our profits are earned, sterling strengthened against many currencies in key faster growth markets by 10-20%, such as India, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and Indonesia, where operating margins are also above the Group average. This began to have an impact on the Group’s reported margins in September, but escalated throughout the final quarter, with a full year impact of 0.2 margin points. Group margins on a constant currency basis increased by 0.5 margin points, in line with the Group’s margin target of 0.5 margin point improvement. On a like-for-like basis they improved 0.6 margin points.
  • Headline PBIT increase of 8.5% with PBIT margin rising by 0.3 margin points to 15.1%, surpassing the previous historical pro forma high of 14.8% achieved in 2012. On a constant currency and like-for-like basis PBIT margins increased by 0.5 and 0.6 margin points, reflecting the impact of the strength of sterling on the faster growth markets
  • Exceptional gains of £36 million largely representing gains on the re-measurement of the Group’s equity interests, where we have acquired a majority stake
  • Gross margin or net sales margin, a more accurate competitive comparator, up 0.4 margin points to an industry leading 16.5%, up 0.5 margin points in constant currency and 0.6 margin points like-for-like
  • Headline diluted EPS up 10.1% and reported diluted EPS up 10.8%, with 20% higher final ordinary dividend of 23.65p and full year dividends of 34.21p per share up 20%
  • Targeted dividend pay-out ratio raised to 45%, to be reached in 2014
  • Average net debt decreased £244m (7.5%) to £2.989bn compared to last year, at 2013 exchange rates, reflecting the continued improvement in working capital in the second half of the year and also the benefit of converting all of the £450 million Convertible Bond in mid-2013 and lower acquisition spending in 2013
  • Creative and effectiveness excellence recognised again in 2013 with the award of the Cannes Lion to WPP for the most creative Holding Company for the third successive year since its inception, another to Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide for the second consecutive year as the most creative agency network and another to Ogilvy Brazil as the most creative agency. Grey was named Global Agency of the Year 2013 by both Ad Age and Adweek. For the second consecutive year, WPP was awarded the EFFIE as the most effective Holding Company
  • Strategy implementation accelerated in a pre- and post-POG (Publicis Omnicom Group) world as sector targets for fast growth markets and digital raised from 35-40% to 40-45% over the next five years

Current trading and outlook

  • January 2014 | Like-for-like revenues up 5.7% for the month, with like-for-like gross margin or net sales, a more accurate competitive comparator up 4.1%, ahead of budget and stronger than the final quarter of 2013
  • FY 2014 budget | Like-for-like revenue and gross margin or net sales growth of over 3% and headline operating margin target improvement for both of 0.3 margin points, excluding the impact of currency
  • Dual focus in 2014 | 1. Revenue growth from leading position in faster growing geographic markets and digital, premier parent company creative position, new business, “horizontality” and strategically targeted acquisitions; 2. Continued emphasis on balancing revenue growth with headcount increases and improvement in staff costs/revenue ratio to enhance operating margins
  • Long-term targets recalibrated | Above industry revenue growth due to geographically superior position in new markets and functional strength in new media and data investment management, including data analytics and the application of new technology; improvement in staff costs/gross margin ratio of 0.2 to 0.4 margin points p.a. depending on gross margin or net sales growth; operating margin expansion of 0.3 margin points or more on a constant currency basis; and headline diluted EPS growth of 10% to 15% p.a. from margin expansion, strategically targeted small and medium-sized acquisitions and share buy-backs
1 Percentage change in reported sterling
2 Percentage change at constant currency exchange rates
3 Headline earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation
4 Headline profit before interest and tax
5 Diluted earnings per share based on headline earnings
6 Diluted earnings per share based on reported earnings

In this press release not all of the figures and ratios used are readily available from the unaudited preliminary results included in Appendix 1. Where required, details of how these have been arrived at are shown in the Appendices.

Download full WPP 2013 Preliminary Results (pdf)

For further information:
Sir Martin Sorrell }
Paul Richardson }
Chris Sweetland } +44 20 7408 2204
Feona McEwan }
Chris Wade }

Kevin McCormack }
Fran Butera } +1 212 632 2235
Belinda Rabano } +86 1360 1078 488 
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