WPP faces shareholder discord at AGM

Directors of WPP faced angry shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in London overnight who expressed their displeasure at Sir Martin Sorrell’s departure last April and the overall level of executive compensation.

At the AGM, nearly 30% of shareholders voted against the company’s executive compensation report and over 15% objected to the re-election of board chairman Roberto Quarta.

WPP board chairman Roberto Quarta

Quarta gave a positive spin on the company’s results, saying in a statement: “In the first four months of 2018, the group’s like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs was up marginally, a slight improvement over the first quarter’s -0.1%.

“Western Continental Europe, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe up strongly in April, and Asia Pacific also improving compared with the first quarter. North America remains difficult, particularly in the group’s advertising and data investment management businesses, but the group’s media investment management and healthcare businesses were up strongly.

“Functionally all sectors except data investment management grew, with strong performance in the group’s media investment management, public relations and public affairs, direct, digital and interactive, health and wellness and specialist communications businesses in April.”

The results, announced in a trading update ahead of the AGM, reported revenue for the first four months of the year was down 3.4% at £4.822 billion, however the company claimed after allowing for adverse currency movements, constant currency revenue was up 2.7% at US$6.633 billion with like for like revenues up 1.4%.

In the Asia Pacific, WPP’s Greater China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Malaysian operations were up strongly in April with India and Singapore down slightly.

Debt however remains a problem for the group with net debt at 30 April 2018 up £66m on 2017 and average net debt in first four months of 2018 up by £360m over same period last year.

Last month, joint COOs Mark Read and Andrew Scott warned the company will be looking closely at underperforming operations as the company looks to reduce debt and costs.

WPP’s stock closed 0.6% down for the day at £1,239.04 following the AGM.


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