Digital shift helped WPP plot path to recovery from pandemic-woes

WPP, the world’s biggest advertising company said, it would immediately relaunch its buyback scheme.

The development comes in the wake of its efforts to help clients shift online to get through the worst of the pandemic.

The company took a major hit in early 2020 because of the coronavirus-induced COVID-19 pandemic which triggered its clients to conserve cash so as stay afloat. WPP has steadily improved its business by helping clients build e-commerce and digital offerings to reach consumers when shopping districts remained shut.

The company has forecast a return to growth during the second quarter of 2021, following a reduction in headcount, using fewer freelancers, and a significant cut in travel budgets. These measures helped the British company save nearly $1.1 billion (800 million pounds).

WPP reported a fourth-quarter drop in underlying net sales of 6.5%, just a little better than an analyst consensus of -6.7%, taking the full-year drop to 8.2% compared with a forecast of -8.4%.

“We’re pretty pleased with the performance given all of the uncertainties over the last 12 months and what we’ve been navigating economically,” said the company’s CEO Mark Read in a statement.

WPP helped companies, including Ford to launch a new car via online platforms when their showrooms were closed due to the pandemic; it also worked with others to build commercial online marketplaces.

In a statement, WPP said, it had secured a “market-leading” $4.4 billion of net new business from companies including HSBC, Uber, Alibaba, Unilever, and Intel.

The company’s shares hit their yearly high giving it a market valuation of 11.3 billion pounds.

The British company’s French rival Publicis has also forecast a return to growth in this second quarter.

($1 = 0.7168 pounds)

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