NEWS12 March 2021

WPP registers £2.3bn operating loss for 2020

Covid-19 Financials News UK

UK – Advertising giant WPP had an operating loss of almost £2.3bn in 2020 due to Covid-19 but has resumed its Kantar share buyback, the company’s latest financial figures show.

Mark Read

WPP full-year results show that revenue dropped from 13.2bn in 2019 to £12bn in 2020, turning 2019’s profit of £1.3bn into a £2.3bn loss last year.

Net debt at WPP, however, was £700m on 31st December 2020, down £800m year-on-year. 

Like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs was down 8.2% overall for 2020 compared with the previous year, albeit improving from a 15.1% fall in the second quarter of 2020 to a 6.5% drop in the fourth quarter.

Like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs at WPP in the fourth quarter fell in the US ( 6.2%), UK ( 7.4%), Germany ( 0.8%), India ( 8.9%) and Greater China ( 12.1%) compared with the previous year.

WPP also said that a £620m share buyback with Kantar – of which 60% was sold by WPP to Bain Capital Private Equity in 2019 – will resume immediately, with up to £300m to be completed over the next three months.

WPP introduced £700m in cost savings at the end of 2019 including freezing new hires, stopping discretionary costs, postponing salary increases and a 20% drop in executive salaries.

Mark Read (pictured), chief executive officer at WPP, said: “2020 was a tough year for everyone, including our people who faced the personal and professional challenges of COVID-19. Their commitment to our clients, support for one another and contribution to the communities we serve have been a constant source of inspiration and pride.

“There is no doubt that the actions we took during the previous two years to transform and simplify the business and reduce debt–to a 16-year low at the end of 2020 – played a crucial role in the strength of our response.”