UK regions now in line with London and South East, says Sir Martin Sorrell

Sir Martin Sorrell

Sir Martin Sorrell

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SIR MARTIN Sorrell, the head of the world’s biggest advertising company, has told The Yorkshire Post that the UK regions are performing “in line” with London and the South East.

The chief executive of WPP warned that whoever wins the UK general election next month will have to focus on the deficit and “things may not be quite as easy”.

In addition to the possibility of a Greek exit from the eurozone, Sir Martin said there is also the “outlier” of a British exit from the European Union if the Conservatives lead the next Government.

However, he said the US economy continues to recover and the eurozone has definite signs of growth.

Sir Martin said Germany is very strong and its exporters are in a fiercely competitive position.

“I would put a lot of money on Germany at the moment,” he added.

He said Spain and Italy are stronger, but still have unacceptably high levels of unemployment. He added that France is probably improving.

In the so-called BRIC economies, Sir Martin said India is seeing very strong growth and he dismissed as “nonsense” speculation that China’s luxury market is in a state of flux.

“I remain unashamedly, unavowedly bullish about China and state-directed capitalism,” he added.

He said Russia was relatively strong in the first quarter in spite of sanctions and Brazil remains problematic.

“We think that will sort its way through,” he said of the South American giant.

WPP said it was on track for its full-year like-for-like net sales target after winning new work, despite posting a slight slowdown in the first-quarter.

Sir Martin said clients are focusing on fast-growing markets and on following consumers into new media.

WPP, which counts the likes of Ford, Unilever and Microsoft among its clients, reported a 3.3 per cent rise in 2014 like-for-like net sales and a 3.9 per cent rise in January.

On Thursday it posted first-quarter growth of 2.5 per cent but said this still fitted within its forecast for the full-year as it expects growth to accelerate over time. It said profits and margin were well above target.

Analysts said the group had faced tough comparatives in the first quarter and welcomed the reiteration of the full-year outlook and the near $1bn of net new business it announced.

A note from Killik said: “Geographically, all markets saw like-for-like net sales growth, characterised by particularly strong growth in the UK and new markets such as India and China.

“However, Western Europe was sluggish posting 0.3 per cent like-for-like growth.

“The miss on new sales was slightly offset with profits and operating margins well ahead of last year and well ahead of the full-year margin target improvement of 0.3 margin points.”

The note added: “We remain buyers of WPP as the leading advertising agency, with its strong propriety offering in digital and exposure to growing new markets.”

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