2021 Interim Results

5 Aug 2021

Strong first half across the business: returned to 2019 levels a year ahead of plan; full-year guidance raised; good progress on transformation; £350 million buyback planned for H2

Key figures – continuing operations

£ million H1 2021 +/(-) % reported1 +/(-) % LFL2 H1 20203
Revenue 6,133 9.8 16.1 5,583
Revenue less pass-through costs 4,899 5.0 11.0 4,668
Operating profit/(loss) 484  n/m4
- (2,751)
Profit/(loss) before tax 394 n/m - (3,177)
Diluted EPS (p) 20.6 n/m - (262.0)
Dividends per share (p) 12.5 25.0 - 10.0
Operating profit   590  54.4  -
Operating profit margin  12.1% 3.9pt* -
Profit before tax   502 81.9 - 276
Diluted EPS (p)   28.7 86.4 - 15.4

* Margin points

H1 and Q2 financial highlights

  • H1 reported revenue 9.8%, LFL revenue 16.1% (Q2 26.4%)
  • H1 revenue less pass-through costs 5.0%, LFL revenue less pass-through costs 11.0% (up 0.5% on H1 2019)
  • Q2 LFL revenue less pass-through costs 19.3%: US 12.6%, UK 31.8%, Germany 20.3%, Greater China 1.4%, Australia 8.4%, India 30.0%
  • Q2 LFL revenue less pass-through costs on 2019 1.3%: US 1.8%, UK 1.1%, Germany 6.3%, Greater China -1.7%, Australia -13.6%, India -2.6%
  • Strong new business performance: $2.9 billion net new billings in H1
  • H1 headline operating margin 12.1%, up 3.9 pt on prior year with strong top-line growth supporting significant reinvestment in incentives
  • H1 headline operating margin pre incentives up 7.8 pt to 17.0%
  • Net debt at 30 June 2021 £1.5 billion, down £1.2 billion year-on-year reflecting good working capital management

Strategic progress, shareholder returns and outlook

  • Shifting business mix: growth areas of experience, commerce and technology represented 26% of revenue less pass-through costs in H1
  • Launch of Choreograph, future-ready data and analytics company
  • M&A to simplify and grow: buy-in of WPP AUNZ minorities; technology acquisitions in Brazil and UK; Kantar agreed to acquire Numerator
  • Continued recognition of creativity and effectiveness: most creative company at Cannes, collecting 190 Lions including 12 Grand Prix, 1 Titanium, 28 Gold, 57 Silver and 92 Bronze
  • Industry-leading commitment to net zero carbon emissions across entire supply chain by 2030
  • £248m share buyback in H1, £350m planned for H2; 12.5p 2021 interim dividend declared, +25%
  • Full year 2021 LFL revenue less pass-through costs growth now expected to be 9-10%; headline operating margin towards the upper end of the 13.5-14.0% range

Mark Read, Chief Executive Officer, WPP:

“I’m delighted with our performance in the first six months of the year, at a time when COVID continues to take a toll on many countries. The like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs growth rate of 19.3% in the second quarter is our highest on record, as clients reinvest in marketing, particularly in digital media, ecommerce and marketing technology. We have returned to 2019 levels in 2021, a year ahead of our plan, with good momentum into 2022.

“We’ve also made very good strategic progress. Our recognition as the most awarded company at the 2021 Cannes Lions Festival reflects our investment in creative talent and the strength of our creative work over the past two years. Our focus on data, commerce and technology, through strategic acquisitions, organic investments and the launch of Choreograph, has supported a strong new business performance. Key assignment wins include AstraZeneca, Bumble, JP Morgan Chase and Pernod Ricard.

“In procurement, property and shared services, we are making strong progress as part of our overall transformation programme. We have significantly increased our incentive pools in the first half, to reflect the tremendous contribution of our people in these challenging times, and in line with our intention to reinvest in talent announced at our Capital Markets Day in December 2020.

“We expect our strategy to translate into benefits for all of our stakeholders: a powerful, modern offer to support our clients’ growth; a great place for our people to work; a positive contribution to communities and the environment; and good financial returns for shareholders, with the interim dividend raised 25% and £600 million of share buybacks planned in 2021.”

WPP 2021 Interim Results press release PDF 832.1 KB


  1. Percentage change in reported sterling.
  2. Like-for-like growth at constant currency exchange rates and excluding the effects of acquisitions and disposals.
  3. Prior year figures have been restated as described in note 2 of Appendix 1.
  4. Not meaningful.
  5. In this press release not all of the figures and ratios used are readily available from the unaudited interim results included in Appendix 1. Management believes these non-GAAP measures, including constant currency and like-for-like growth, revenue less pass-through costs and headline profit measures, are both useful and necessary to better understand the Group’s results. Where required, details of how these have been arrived at are shown in Appendix 2.


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