LONDON—Public relations and public affairs revenues at WPP Group declined by 7.4 percent in like-for-like terms last year, with a fourth quarter improvement in performance at Burson-Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton helping the company’s PR operations outperform most of its other sectors (with the exception of its branding, healthcare and specialist communications business) and rival Omnicom.
Group chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell predicted that revenues for the group as a whole would be flat in 2010, and that all sectors except advertising and media buying were predicted to grow “at a modest rate” in the coming year. “Advertising,” the company says, “remains challenged by clients’ continued demands for efficiency, particularly in mature markets.”
Sorrell says he does not expect a double-dip recession in any of the major markets, and predicts continued growth in emerging markets.
For the year ending in December, pre-tax profit was down 21 per cent in constant currency terms from £747m to £663m, based on revenue up 5 per cent on the same basis to £8.7billion. But on a like-for-like basis, sales fell 8 percent for the year.
Public relations and public affairs experienced what the company described as a “substantially less worse” position in the fourth quarter, with like-for-like revenues down less than 5 percent. Operating margins fell by 1.2 margin points but remained strong, as action was taken to reduce costs, with average headcount down significantly.