Saturday 21 September 2019

WPP shares surge as market eyes post-Sorrell disposals

Martin Sorrell. Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images
Martin Sorrell. Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Joe Mayes

WPP shares had their best day in almost a decade as investors looked beyond its lack of growth and focused instead on possible asset sales following the departure of founder Martin Sorrell.

The world's largest advertising company pledged that interim co-chief operating officers Mark Read and Andrew Scott would undertake a strategy review while delivering first-quarter financial results that beat analysts' estimates. Executives spent a subsequent meeting with analysts playing down expectations for a breakup after media reports over the weekend that it's considering the sale of its market research unit Kantar.

"We will be keeping an open mind and will always go where value is for shareholders," chairman Roberto Quarta said. "The starting point is not a breakup."

WPP's interim managers are signalling they'll move quickly to reposition the business following Mr Sorrell's abrupt departure.

Analysts think the network of more than 400 agencies could be broken up or could pursue more modest asset sales as it battles a decline in ad spending by clients such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

Shares surged as much as 9.7pc, yesterday, and were up 8.1pc by 11am in London.

Over the weekend, 'The Times' reported that managers of market research group Kantar are considering a management buyout of the unit. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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