WPP 2014 Preliminary Results

9 Mar 2015

  • Despite 6-7% currency headwinds, another record year
  • Reported billings at £46.186 billion, up 6.8% in constant currency
  • Reported revenue up 4.6% at £11.529 billion, up 9.9% at $18.956 billion in dollars and up 10.4% at €14.323 billion in euros
  • Constant currency revenue up 11.3%, like-for-like revenue up 8.2%
  • Constant currency net sales up 6.3%, like-for-like net sales up 3.3%
  • Reported net sales margin of 16.7%, up 0.2 margin points vs last year, up 0.3 margin points, on a constant currency basis in line with full year margin target
  • Headline profit before interest and tax £1.681 billion, up 1.1% and up 8.0% in constant currency
  • Headline profit before tax £1.513 billion, up 3.7% and up 11.6% in constant currency, crossing £1.5 billion for the first time
  • Profit before tax £1.452 billion, up 12.0%, up 21.3% in constant currency
  • Profit after tax £1.152 billion, up 13.8%, up 23.1% in constant currency
  • Headline diluted earnings per share of 84.9p, up 5.1%, up 12.6% in constant currency
  • Return on equity up to 15.0% in 2014, up 0.6 percentage points on 2013 versus a weighted average cost of capital of 6.1% in 2014
  • Dividends per share of 38.2p, up 11.7%, pay-out ratio of 45% versus 42% last year, in line with the re-targeted dividend pay-out ratio for 2014 one year ahead of original schedule
  • Constant currency net debt £2.275 billion at 31 December 2014, down £21 million on same date in 2013, with average net debt in 2014 flat at £3.001 billion against 2013
  • Net new business of £5.831 billion ($9.330 billion) in the year with the Group first in new business league tables for the third year in a row
  • Good start to 2015 with January like-for-like revenue up 6.7% and net sales up 3.9%
  • Including associates and investments, revenue totals almost $27 billion annually and people average over 188,000
Key figures
£ Million 2014

Δ reported1

Δ constant2

Billings 46,186 -% 6.8% 46,209
Revenue 11,529 4.6% 11.3% 11,019
Net Sales 10,065 -0.1% 6.3% 10,076
Headline EBITA4 1,910 0.7% 7.5% 1,896
Headline PBIT5 1,681 1.1% 8.0% 1,662
Net sales margin5 16.7% 0.2* 0.3% 16.5%
Profit before tax
1,452 12.0% 21.3% 1,296
Profit after tax
1,152 13.8% 23.1% 1,012
Headline diluted EPS6
84.9p 5.1% 12.6% 80.8p
Diluted EPS7 80.5p 15.7% 24.9% 69.6p
Dividends per share 38.20p 11.7% 11.7% 34.21p

* Margin points

Full Year highlights
  • Reported billings at £46.186 billion, up 6.8% in constant currency driven by a strong leadership position in net new business league tables
  • Revenue growth of 4.6%, with like-for-like growth of 8.2%, 3.1% growth from acquisitions and -6.7% from currency
  • Like-for-like revenue growth in all regions, led by strong growth in North America, United Kingdom and Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central & Eastern Europe, and by all sectors, with particularly strong growth in advertising and media investment management and branding and identity, healthcare and specialist communications (including direct, digital and interactive)
  • Like-for-like net sales growth at 3.3%, with the gap compared to revenue growth more than the first half, as the scale of digital media purchases in media investment management and data investment management revenue continues to increase
  • Headline EBITDA growth of 0.7%, and up 7.5% in constant currency, reflecting currency headwinds, but giving 0.2 margin points improvement, to 19.0% on net sales, with like-for-like operating costs (+3.1%) rising slower than net sales
  • Headline PBIT increase of 1.1% to £1.681 billion, up 8.0% in constant currency
  • Net sales margin, a more accurate competitive comparator, up 0.2 margin points to an industry leading 16.7%, up 0.3 margin points in constant currency, in line with target
  • Exceptional gains of £196 million largely representing gains on the AppNexus and Rentrak transactions completed in the second half, together with other gains of £45 million, including gains on the re-measurement of the Group’s equity interests, partly offset by £89 million of restructuring costs, £39 million of IT transformation costs and £7 million of investment write-downs, giving a net exceptional gain of £61 million
  • Headline diluted EPS up 5.1%, up 12.6% in constant currency and reported diluted EPS up 15.7%, up 24.9% in constant currency, reflecting strong like-for-like revenue growth, acquisitions and margin improvement
  • Final ordinary dividend of 26.58p up 12.4% and full year dividends of 38.20p per share up 11.7%
  • Targeted dividend pay-out ratio of 45%, achieved in 2014, one year ahead of original schedule
  • Return on equity8 up to 15.0% in 2014, up 0.6 percentage points from 14.4% in 2013, versus a weighted average cost of capital of 6.1% in 2014 and 6.5% in 2013. During 2014 the value of the Group’s non-controlled investments rose by £398 million, to £669 million from £271 million, reflecting the increasing value of its content businesses, primarily Vice, and the technology partnerships formed during the year with AppNexus and Rentrak
  • Average net debt flat, at £3.001 billion compared to last year, at 2014 exchange rates, reflecting the significant incremental net acquisition spend and share re-purchases of £588 million, offsetting the improvements in working capital at the period end
  • Creative and effectiveness excellence recognised again in 2014 with the award of the Cannes Lion to WPP for the most creative Holding Company, for the fourth successive year, since the awards inception and another to Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, for the third consecutive year, as the most creative agency network. In another rare occurrence in our industry, in 2014 Grey was named Global Agency of the Year 2013 by both US trade magazines Ad Age and Ad Week. For the third 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 2015 | Like-for-like revenue up 6.7% for the month, with like-for-like net sales, a more accurate competitive comparator up 3.9%, stronger than the final quarter of 2014 and 2014 itself
  • FY 2015 budget | As in 2014, like-for-like revenue and 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 2015 | 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/net sales ratio to enhance operating margins
  • Long-term targets | 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/net sales margin ratio of 0.2 to 0.4 margin points p.a. depending on 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 revenue growth, 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 Headline profit before interest and tax, as a percentage of net sales
6 Diluted earnings per share based on headline earnings
7 Diluted earnings per share based on reported earnings
8 Return on equity is headline diluted EPS divided by equity share owners funds per share

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 Appendix 1: Preliminary results for the year ended 31 December 2014 (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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