WPP says COVID-19 dragged March internet gross sales down 7.9%, braces for larger affect

FILE PHOTO: Branding signage is seen for WPP Group, the largest global advertising and public relations agency at their offices in London, Britain, July 17, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) – WPP (WPP.L), the world’s biggest advertising company, said net sales fell 3.3% in the first quarter, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic dragging it down by 7.9% in March alone, prompting it to cut more costs.

It said it expected the impact from the virus to increase in the short term, but could not say by how much.

The owner of the Ogilvy, Grey and Hill+Knowlton agencies has already set out steps to cut around 2 billion pounds in 2020 to see it through a downturn in client spending, including pulling the dividend and a share buyback.

It said on Wednesday it had strong cash and liquidity and could flex costs against a range of scenarios to manage profit and cash flow.

“We expect the impact of COVID-19 on our business to increase in the short term, but it is not possible to quantify the depth or duration of the impact,” it said.

“We are nonetheless confident that, through our scenario planning, we are well positioned to take further action if the downturn is prolonged and to respond positively when the market picks up.”

Amongst additional cost saving measures it is taking, it has introduced a voluntary salary sacrifice from over 3,000 senior roles, part-time working and some permanent headcount reductions.

Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge

Source: Reuters