WPP 2021 like-for-like revenue increased 12.1%

By Ian Walker

WPP PLC on Thursday reported a return to pre-tax profit for 2021 as revenue growth was driven by strong demand for services in digital marketing, media, e-commerce and technology.

The London-based advertising group said fourth-quarter like-for-like net sales – a closely watched measure of its underlying performance – rose 10.8%.

For 2021 as a whole, comparable net sales rose 12.1%, just above the guidance given in October for a range of 11.5% to 12.0%.

For the year ahead, WPP said it expects like-for-like net sales growth of around 5% and an overall operating margin up around 50 basis points.

WPP recorded a pre-tax profit of £950.8 million ($1.29 billion), compared to a pre-tax loss of £2.79 billion in 2020.

Revenue for the year fell from £12.00 billion to £12.80 billion, it said.

The owner of creative agencies VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson and ad-buying conglomerate GroupM is targeting £800million in share buybacks this year, of which £129million has already been made, he said.

WPP declared a final dividend of 18.7 pence per share, down from 14.0 pence in 2020, bringing the total payout for the year to 31.2 pence, down from 24.0 pence.

“We look forward to 2022 with confidence. We are heading for strong top line growth, improved profitability and continued investment in our people and services,” said Chief Executive Mark Read.

Write to Ian Walker at ian.walker@wsj.com

Ann J. Cox