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Account wins help ad group WPP secure strong end to 2015

[LONDON] Strong growth in North America and a spate of major account wins helped WPP, the world's biggest advertising company, to end 2015 with the best growth of the year and start 2016 on a solid footing.

The last major ad group to report 2015 results mirrored its peers Omnicom and Publicis in reporting a decent end to 2015. WPP enjoyed strong demand in North America, Britain and the big markets of western Europe.

Account wins from firms such as Unilever, L'Oreal and Tesco helped WPP secure net new business of 5.6 billion pounds (S$11 billion), putting the British firm at the top of the league table for new work for the fourth year in a row.

WPP, which handles the advertising needs of brands such as Ford and Unilever through agencies including Ogilvy & Mather and JWT, reported fourth-quarter like-for-like net sales growth of 4.9 per cent, the strongest quarter of the year.

That gave it a full-year figure of 3.3 per cent, slightly ahead of forecasts.

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Led by high-profile businessman Martin Sorrell, the group said it expected to produce a similar net sales growth rate for 2016 with an improvement in profitability and said it had already enjoyed an above-budget month in January.

Analysts said the results were slightly ahead of expectations, but noted that the language around the outlook remained cautious. The firm listed the low oil price, uncertainty around global growth and the upcoming British referendum on EU membership as areas of concern.

"The pattern for 2016 looks very similar to 2015, but with the bonus of the maxi-quadrennial events of the visually-stunning Rio Olympics, the UEFA Euro Football Championships and, of course, the United States Presidential Election," it said.


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