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Slump in PR hits WPP revenues

LONDON - WPP Group reported first-quarter revenues down by 2% to £945.8m but UK revenues were up 2% offering some hope of recovery.

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On a like-for-like basis, revenues were down 9%, higher than the 7% analysts had been expecting. However, WPP offered little in the way of forward guidance on how it sees the markets developing throughout the remainder of 2002.

The UK fared considerably better than the US, where revenues were down 7%. WPP was hardest hit in public relations and public affairs, which were down by more than 13% and goes someway to explaining the sharp fall in US revenues.

In mainland Europe, revenues were up over 6%. Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East revenues were up over 3%.

WPP reported net new-business billings of £500m and said that it continued to benefit from consolidation trends in the industry, winning several large accounts from existing and new clients.

Growth in advertising and media was flat, and information and consultancy was up over 6%. Branding and identity, healthcare and specialist communications were down over 2%.

In a statement, WPP said: "The group continues to focus on its key objectives of improving operating profits and margins, increasing cost flexibility (particularly in the areas of staff and property costs), using free cash flow to enhance share owner value, continuing to develop the role of the parent company in adding value to our clients and people, developing our portfolio in high-revenue growth, geographical and functional areas and improving our creative quality and capabilities."

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