Ad firm WPP sees business confidence improving

Fri Mar 1, 2013 6:23am EST
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By Lorraine Turner

LONDON (Reuters) - WPP (WPP.L: Quote), the world's biggest advertising company, reported a stronger-than-expected rebound in revenue growth at the end of 2012 and nudged up its forecast for this year, citing signs of improving business confidence.

The British firm, a barometer of business sentiment whose clients include Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Shell, said on Friday many of the economic worries raised by companies last year, including a debt crisis in the euro zone and a potential sharp slowdown in growth in China, appeared to be easing.

"The euro zone looks a little a bit better ... China seems to be motoring again, India (had a) good budget this morning," chief executive Martin Sorrell said.

"When you pull all that together, there's probably a little bit more confidence than last year and that may compensate ... for the lack of big events," he added, comparing a relatively quiet calendar in 2013 with last year's Olympic Games, U.S. presidential elections and European soccer championships.

WPP, home to agencies including Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam, said organic revenues, which exclude acquisitions, rose 2.5 percent at constant exchange rates in the fourth quarter of 2012, helped by an improvement in all regions except North America and up from 1.9 in the third quarter.

That lifted revenue growth for the full year to 2.9 percent, beating analysts' expectations of 2.6 percent.

A strong end to the year echoed the performances of rivals Omnicom (OMC.N: Quote) and Publicis (PUBP.PA: Quote), which noted an improvement in emerging markets and the United States and were cautiously optimistic on the outlook for 2013.

DEMANDING YEAR   Continued...

Chief Executive of WPP Group, Martin Sorrell, speaks at the Institute of Directors IOD annual convention at the Albert Hall in London April 28, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor