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WPP upbeat over worldwide growth as Latin America leads the way

LONDON - WPP Group reported revenue growth in all regions, including a 14% rise in the UK, during the first five months of 2005 but it was Latin America and Asia that led the way.

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At WPP's AGM in London, chairman Philip Lader said revenues at the end of May were up 6% on last year's figures, excluding acquisitions such as the £730m purchase of Grey Global Group and currency fluctuations.

"Media investment management continues to show the strongest growth of all our communications services sectors, along with direct, internet and interactive, and healthcare communications.

"Direct, internet and interactive-related activities now account for almost 15% of the group's revenues," Lader said.

He added that advertising businesses, such as JWT and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, performed well as did the group's PR and public affairs companies, including Hill & Knowlton.

The group's fastest-growing region, as in 2004, remains Latin America, with Asia Pacific also performing well. In parts of Latin America, revenues are up more than 50%.

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell said that in terms of Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, WPP was "significantly stronger and faster than rivals".

The UK and US markets continue to grow, however Lader said some markets in Germany, France, Denmark, the Benelux countries and Portugal remained "difficult".

In terms of constant currency the WPP said the US was up over 22%, the UK 14%, continental Europe over 21% and the regions Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East up almost 25%.

He also told the meeting that the group would continue its policy of encouraging link-ups between its companies.

Despite Lader's optimism, concern still remains among shareholders over the lack of a succession plan over a replacement for Sorrell should he retire.

The concerns were aired last week by shareholder activist group RREV, run by corporate governance body ISS and the National Association of Pension Funds.

The AGM also featured an appearance by Grey Global chairman Ed Meyer, who said: "I'm particularly happy to be here for the first time as a citizen of WPP."

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