2020 Interim Results

27 Aug 2020

Resilient performance in challenging environment; market-leading new business performance; improved liquidity and on track to be towards the upper end of £700-800m cost savings target; interim dividend of 10p declared


Key figures – continuing operations

£ million H1 2020 Δ reported1 Δ LFL2 H1 20193  
Revenue 5,583 -12.3% -11.5%  6,368 
Revenue less pass-through costs 4,668 -10.2% -9.5%  5,199
Operating (loss)/profit  (2,453)  - - 596   
(Loss)/profit before tax  (2,581)  - - 409   
Diluted EPS (p)  (214.5)  - - 21.4   
Dividends per share (p)  10.0  -55.9%  - 22.7   
Operating profit   382  -38.1%  -37.8%
Operating profit margin  8.2%  -3.7pt*  -3.7pt*  11.9%   
Profit before tax   276  -44.2%  - 494   
Diluted EPS (p)   15.4  -45.0%  - 28.0   

* Margin points

H1 and Q2 financial highlights

  • H1 reported revenue -12.3%, LFL revenue -11.5% (Q2 -18.4%)
  • H1 revenue less pass-through costs -10.2%, LFL revenue less pass-through costs -9.5%
  • Q2 LFL revenue less pass-through costs -15.1%: US -9.6%, UK -23.3%, Germany -11.6%, Greater China -3.1%, India -25.1%
  • H1 headline operating margin 8.2%, down 3.7pt on prior year as cost savings offset the majority of revenue decline
  • Cost savings of £296 million in H1, on track to deliver towards the upper end of the £700-800 million target. Around 25% of these savings expected to be permanent when returning to 2019 levels of revenue less pass-through costs
  • Reported loss before tax impacted by £2.7 billion of impairments (£2.5 billion goodwill, £0.2 billion investment and other write-downs); relating to acquisitions whose carrying values have been reassessed, triggered by the impact of COVID-19, and driven by a combination of higher discount rates, a lower profit base in 2020 and lower industry growth rates
  • Net debt at 30 June 2020 £2.7 billion, down £1.5 billion year-on-year reflecting Kantar transaction and strong working capital management

Strategic progress, shareholder returns and outlook

  • Transformation delivering results: VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson our two best-performing integrated agencies
  • Strong new business performance, reflecting enhanced offer and improved collaboration
  • Continued recognition of creativity and effectiveness: Effies winner for ninth successive year; Cannes Lions Agency Holding Company of the Decade
  • 2019 final dividend cancelled to support lower leverage; share buyback still under review but intention to restart when environment stabilises; 10p 2020 interim dividend declared
  • Current trading showing sequential improvement on Q2 but market remains volatile: July LFL revenue less pass-through costs -9.2%. US -6.1%, UK -10.5%, Germany -7.2%, Greater China -18.6%, India -15.5%
  • Full year 2020 LFL revenue less pass-through costs growth and headline operating margin expected to be within the range of analysts’ expectations5
  • Capital markets event to update on strategic progress, long-term efficiency savings and capital allocation planned before 2020 year end

Mark Read, Chief Executive Officer, WPP:

“After two months in which our strategic progress could be measured by growth outside Greater China, the second quarter saw an inevitable downturn, with like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs declining by 15%, albeit better than our expectations. Assuming there is no second wave nor major lockdowns, the second quarter is expected to be the toughest period of the year, although we remain cautious on the speed of recovery.

“Our strategic transformation remains on track but as COVID-19 accelerates the change in our sector, we are accelerating our plans. We continue to attract new talent, invest in technology and ecommerce, and train our people in the skills they need for the future, with more than 20,000 receiving accreditations from Adobe, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Salesforce this year.

“We are working with our clients to help them get back to business, adapt their marketing strategies at speed and reshape their operations for a new world. Brands are seeing increases in online sales of 100% and more, and we are supporting eight of our top ten clients on ecommerce strategies. Our new business record is industry-leading, at $4 billion in the first half, including wins from Intel, HSBC and Unilever, and our pipeline remains strong.

“With £4.7 billion of liquidity thanks to the Kantar transaction, and as we deliver against our cost savings targets, our financial position remains strong. As a result, we are able to return to paying our dividend, with an interim dividend of 10p for 2020.

“I would like to thank our people around the world, the vast majority of whom have been working from home and have shown great creativity, agility and collective spirit to support our clients in challenging times.”

WPP Interim Results 2020 press release PDF 904.6 KB


  1. Percentage change in reported sterling.
  2. Like-for-like growth at constant currency exchange rates and excluding the effects of acquisitions and disposals.
  3. Prior year figures have been re-presented in accordance with IFRS 5: Non-current Assets Held for Sale and Discontinued Operations, as described in note 13 of Appendix 1.
  4. In this press release not all of the figures and ratios used are readily available from the unaudited interim results included in Appendix 1. Management believes these non-GAAP measures, including constant currency and like-for-like growth, revenue less pass-through costs and headline profit measures, are both useful and necessary to better understand the Group’s results. Where required, details of how these have been arrived at are shown in Appendix 2.
  5. Like-for-like growth in revenue less pass-through costs of -10.0% to -11.5%, and headline operating margin of 10.4% to 12.5%.


For further information:

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