Holding companies struggle in the US but growth remains robust in the UK
01 September 2017
Market Intelligence

Holding companies struggle in the US but growth remains robust in the UK

WPP, the world’s largest marketing group, reported revenue growth of 13.3% to £7.40bn ($9.33bn) for the first half of 2017. However, this was largely due to an 11.4% gain from currency, and a 2.2% growth from acquisitions. Organic revenue growth over the period fell by 0.3%. The recent trend provides a starker picture for the firm with Q2 organic revenue falling by 0.8%, with a heavy 4.1% fall in July alone. Net sales, the most meaningful and accurate reflection of WPP’s top line growth, decreased by 1.7% in the second quarter, and by 0.5% in the first half. Growth was fairly weak across all geographic markets, with a fall of 2.2% in North America, the company’s biggest market, being the worst. UK performance was one of the few bright spots for the company, with the region showing growth in net sales of 3.8% over the half-year.

WPP suffered from the loss of key clients, including the end of a 19-year relationship with Volkswagen, and telecoms giant AT&T. Moreover, client spending pressures, particularly in the FMCG sector, further hindered growth.

New York-based Omnicom Group reported a fall in revenue of 0.1% to $7.38bn, comprising a comparatively strong underlying organic growth of 3.9%, a decrease in revenue from the negative foreign exchange impact of 1.3%, and a decrease in acquisition revenue, net of disposals, of 2.7%. Apart from the North American region, which saw a 0.6% growth for the six months ended June 30, 2017, Omnicom saw strong growth rates in all other markets. Latin America grew by 5.2%, the UK along with other Euro markets all grew at above 8%, and the Middle East and Africa region grew by 28.7%.

Out of their four fundamental disciplines, Omnicom’s Advertising division was the best performing, experiencing growth of 5.2%, while CRM increased 2.9%, PR by 0.7%, and speciality communications by 2.7%.

Publicis posted reported revenue for the half of €4.8bn ($5.2bn), up 1.9% from €4.7bn a year earlier. Organic growth was however -0.2% over the period, which comes primarily from previous difficulties that led to a poor Q1 performance where organic growth fell by 1.2%. Q2 performance was much stronger with 0.8% organic growth coming from a number of recent client wins, including McDonald’s, Bel, and HSBC. Growth from acquisitions over the period was 0.5% while growth from foreign exchange increased reported revenue by 1.6%.

While North America saw a fall in organic growth of 2.4% over the half, the gains in account wins helped the Group return to positive growth in the region (0.2%) over the most recent quarter. Moreover, the expectation is that these gains will continue into Q3, and the second half of the year. Aside from the recent turnaround in North America, the group continues to show solid organic growth in its home region of Europe (+4.3%) over the first half of 2017, with the UK (+7.8%) and Italy (+10.5%) being the standout markets.

Interpublic Group reported a first half revenue of $3.64bn, a 0.6% decrease from the $3.66bn reported in the first half of 2016. Organic growth of 1.5% was reduced 1.1% by currency fluctuations and 1% by net acquisitions and divestures.

This was comprised of an organic increase of 1.7% in the US, which was 1.8% excluding the impact of lower pass-through revenues, and no organic change internationally. Revenue growth was hit negatively by acquisitions (-1.1%) and foreign exchange (-1.0%).

These results were not as strong as the growth shown by IPG in the recent quarters, where they exceeded their expectations. In terms of their agencies, Mediabrands, McCann Worldgroup, Hill Holliday, and Huge all showed positive growth momentum while in terms of client sectors, strength was seen in healthcare, along with growth in the auto and transportation, retail and government fields. These increases were offset by declines in tech and telecoms, and also a fall in financial services and consumer goods.

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