WPP reports first signs of ‘Brexit anxiety’ as UK sales growth slows

PUBLISHED: 09:16 31 October 2016 | UPDATED: 09:16 31 October 2016

FTSE 100 Stock The sign outside the WPP offices in Farm Street London. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire.

FTSE 100 Stock The sign outside the WPP offices in Farm Street London. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire.

Advertising giant WPP has said the first signs of “Brexit anxiety” are beginning to show as the firm reported slower sales growth in Britain.

The firm, run by Sir Martin Sorrell, said in its third-quarter trading update that like-for-like growth in the UK came in at 2.1%, compared with 3.5% in the previous quarter.

WPP said: “All parts of the group’s businesses, except data investment management and public relations and public affairs, softened.

“Perhaps, the first signs of Brexit anxiety.”

But WPP also flagged the impact of a weak pound, which boosted overall revenue by 23.4% to £3.6bn, with North America and continental Europe driving growth.

On a constant currency basis, the firm said overall sales grew 7.6%.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Sir Martin said: “I always think of a country’s currency as its stock price, so when the currency falls it is rather like the country’s stock price falling.”

Sir Martin, a prominent proponent of remaining in the EU, again reiterated that WPP will place a greater emphasis on growth in western continental Europe, in particular Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

To this end, WPP announced in September that it is investing in French media firm Les Nouvelles Editions Independantes, which owns holdings in newspaper Le Monde and VICE France.

In its outlook, WPP highlighted the “diplomatic warfare and long-term negotiation around Brexit” and “right-wing and left-wing populism around ... the presidential election in the United States” as reasons for caution.

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