6 Mar 2010

WPP profit down in 2009

8:05 am on 6 March 2010

The world's biggest advertising group, WPP, saw profits fall by 11% to $US1 billion in 2009 as the economic downturn bit hard into its business.

Chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell told the BBC that the company was "staring into the abyss" last year, but 2010 is expected to be a more stable year.

After cutting 14,000 employees last year, the company is now hiring again.

However, it conceded that the group had been slow to react to significant declines in revenue in the first half of the year. But it said wider reductions might ultimately have damaged the business.

The BBC reports the figures were worse than had been expected, pushing shares 2.6% lower in early trading. However, they recovered by mid-morning.

Looking forward, Sir Martin said growth was expected to continue to come from the BRIC group countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China.

He singled out India in particular as somewhere that was experiencing a consumer boom.

But he said worries about unemployment and low growth meant consumers and clients were generally still cautious.

On a brighter note, he said the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, the Asian games in Guangzhou, China and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa were among major events which WPP expect will bolster its revenue in 2010.

WPP includes advertising agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather and JWT.