LONDON—Public relations and public affairs operations at WPP Group—parent of Burson-Marsteller, Cohn & Wolfe, Hill & Knowlton, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and several specialist PR firms—showed “significant improvement” during the first five months of 2004, according to group CEO Martin Sorrell at the company’s annual meeting.
Public relations and public affairs revenues are up about 7 percent, growing faster than the research and consultancy side of the business but not as rapidly as advertising and media buying, which is up about 14 percent.
According to the company’s chairman, Philip Lader, “2004 is certainly proving to be a better year than 2003, with the so-called quadrennial factors improving growth prospects. The European Football Championships, the Athens Olympics, American political advertising and the U.S. presidential elections all add up to a better climate for advertising and marketing services expenditures.”
Sorrell said the growth that began almost two years ago in the U.S. was continuing, with the Asia-Pacific region showing increasing strength, fueled by the Japanese recovery and growth in China. Western Europe, however, “remains relatively tough, particularly in France, Germany and the United Kingdom.”
The company said worldwide revenues were up almost 6 per cent in the first five months of the year, and rose by about 2 per cent on a like-for-like basis, excluding acquisitions—most notably Cordiant—and currency fluctuations.
WPP could finance a bid for Grey Advertising, the world’s seventh largest advertising group, chief executive Martin Sorrell said at the annual meeting. Asked whether WPP was interested in Grey, which retained investment bankers to explore a possible sale last week, Sorrell said he couldn’t comment, but went on to suggest that the company could finance such a bid.
“Our market capitalization is about $12.5bn; Grey’s is about $1bn, $1.2bn. You can draw your own conclusions,” he said.