WPP Plc (WPPGY) lowered its full-year sales guidance Tuesday after reporting a fall in like-for-like sales and revenue for the second consecutive quarter as big brands cut back on ad spending.
The world's biggest advertising agency reported a 2% fall in third quarter like-for-like revenue to £3.649 billion ($4.8 billion) and a fall of 1.1% in like-for-like sales to £3.19 billion. This was the second consecutive quarter the company reported a fall in like-for-like revenue and sales.
WPP said that the full-year forecast will be formally reviewed in the first two weeks of November but indicates broadly flat like-for-like revenue and net sales growth, with the gap between revenue and net sales growth narrowing further. The company had previously given a growth range of 0% to 1%.
The company saw its biggest decline in North America, reporting a like-for-like revenue was down 5.1% and like-for-like sales down 4.9%. WPP said there was softness across all the group's businesses in the region and that it remains its biggest geographical area of concern and focus.
WPP shares were marked 0.46% higher in early London trading, despite the guidance cut, and changing hands at 1,302 pence each, trimming their three-month loss to around 16.3%.
WPP attributed the poor quarter to a number of things, including digital disruption from Alphabet's Google (GOOGL) , Facebook (FB) and Amazon (AMZN) . The company also warned that there is further pressure on the digital space from "the intrusion of management consultancies", with the likes of Accenture and Deliotte buying smaller digital agencies.
However, the biggest impact, WPP said, has come companies cutting ad spend.
Clients "have now been forced to focus even more on cost reduction in response to activist investors (for example, Nelson Peltz at Procter & Gamble (PG) or Dan Loeb at Nestlé, who claim to be proponents of increased marketing spend), or the consolidation threat of zero-based budgeters such as 3G or Reckitt Benckiser or Coty, or previously Valeant or Endo in the pharmaceutical industry," WPP said.
This is forcing many of their clients, especially in the consumer goods sector, to cut cost and has encouraged a short-term focus, the company said. "As a result, the S&P 500 is now consistently paying back around 100% of its earnings to share owners in the form of dividends and buybacks, as opposed to about 60% in 2009, post-Lehman. Effectively management is abrogating responsibility for reinvesting retained earnings back to share owners," WPP said.
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