2021 Preliminary Results

24 Feb 2022

Very strong growth driven by demand for digital services, ecommerce and technology; exceptional new business performance; over £1 billion returned to shareholders; sustained momentum into 2022

Key figures – continuing operations

£ million
+/(-)% reported1
+/(-)% LFL2 20203
Revenue 12,801
Revenue less pass-through costs 10,397
Operating profit/(loss)
Profit/(loss) before tax

Diluted EPS (p)
Dividends per share (p)
Operating profit
Operating profit margin
Profit before tax
Diluted EPS (p)
30.6 -

* Margin points

Full year and Q4 financial highlights

  • FY continuing operations reported revenue +6.7%, LFL revenue +13.3%
  • FY LFL revenue less pass-through costs +12.1%; Q4 +10.8%
  • 2-year FY LFL revenue less pass-through costs +2.9%; Q4 +3.6%
  • Q4 LFL revenue less pass-through costs by major market: US +11.7%, UK +9.9%, Germany +3.4%, Greater China +13.6%, Australia -2.2%
  • FY headline operating margin 14.4%, up 1.7pt LFL on prior year with strong top-line growth and efficiency savings supporting significant reinvestment in incentives
  • Reported diluted EPS 52.5 pence; headline diluted EPS up 30.6% to 78.5 pence
  • Free cash flow of £1.3 billion
  • Adjusted net debt at 31 December 2021 £0.9 billion, after significant growth investments and shareholder returns, reflecting very strong cash generation

Strategic progress, shareholder returns and 2022 guidance

  • Improving business mix: growth areas of experience, commerce and technology around 38% of revenue less pass-through costs in Global Integrated Agencies ex GroupM 
  • GroupM very strong: 2021 LFL revenue less pass-through costs +16.1%
  • Continued investment in client offer: creation of Choreograph, acquisitions including Sard Verbinnen, Satalia, Cloud Commerce and Numerator (Kantar)
  • Breadth and depth of capabilities resonating well with clients: market-leading $8.7 billion5 of net new business won, including global Coca-Cola account
  • Strong recognition of creativity and effectiveness: most awarded company at the 2021 Cannes Lions Festival; ranked number one across all three WARC rankings for media, creative and effectiveness
  • Transformation programme on track: around £245 million gross savings, mainly in property, procurement and simplification; good progress on shared services and IT transformation
  • Final dividend of 18.7 pence proposed, up 33.6%; over £1 billion returned to shareholders in 2021 through share buybacks and dividends
  • 2022 guidance: LFL revenue less pass-through costs growth around 5%; headline operating margin up around 50 bps; trade working capital expected to be flat year-on-year; £800 million share buyback, of which £129 million already completed; tax rate of around 25.5% in 2022

Mark Read, Chief Executive Officer, WPP:

“It has been an outstanding year for WPP. Our top-line growth, driven by strong demand for our services in digital marketing, media, ecommerce and technology, has resulted in our fastest organic growth for over 20 years. As a result, we are two years ahead of our plan, hitting our 2023 revenue target in 2021.

“As clients seek to accelerate their growth and transform how they reach customers, the depth, breadth and global scale of our offer - which combines creativity with technology and data, through Choreograph, and the largest global media platform in GroupM - is proving its value for existing and new clients. The talent, dynamism and commitment of our people have also shone through. Our extensive partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, the expansion of our work with Google and the continuation of our longstanding relationship with Unilever demonstrate the value that three of the world’s leading marketing organisations place in WPP.

“We have made substantial strategic progress, creating the world’s leading board-level communications firm through the merger of Finsbury Glover Hering and Sard Verbinnen, and acquiring capabilities in AI, commerce and technology services to leverage across all of WPP for future growth. Cash generation continues to be very strong, underpinned by efficiencies achieved in our transformation programme, allowing us to make significant investments in our offer and reward our people for their huge contribution, while returning over £1 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks.

“We look forward to 2022 with confidence. We are guiding to strong top-line growth, improving profitability and continued investment in our people and services.”

WPP 2021 Preliminary Results press release PDF 913.6 KB


  1. Percentage change in reported sterling.
  2. Like-for-like. LFL comparisons are calculated as follows: current year, constant currency actual results (which include acquisitions from the relevant date of completion) are compared with prior year, constant currency actual results, adjusted to reflect the results of acquisitions and disposals and the reclassification of certain businesses to associates in 2021 and the reassessment of agency arrangements under IFRS 15 for the commensurate period in the prior year.
  3. Figures have been restated as described in the accounting policies in Appendix 1.
  4. In this press release not all of the figures and ratios used are readily available from the unaudited preliminary 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. Billings, as defined in the glossary on page 45.


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