(Alliance News) - Advertising giant WPP PLC on Wednesday reiterated its earnings targets and said that there has been a "significant change" in the last 12 months.
For 2019, WPP is guiding for a 1.5% to 2.0% decrease in like-for-like revenue, excluding pass-through costs. The company is expecting "stronger" headwinds in the first half due to client assignment losses at the end of 2018.
WPP is also guiding for headline operating margin to revenue, excluding pass-through costs, at constant currency, to decrease by about 1 margin point in 2019 compared to the 15.3% reported in 2018.
The firm's medium-term targets, to be achieved by the end of 2021, remain organic growth - defined as like-for-like revenue excluding pass-through costs - in line with peers and headline operating margin of "at least" 15%.
Speaking at the company's annual general meeting Wednesday, Chair Roberto Quarta said: "It has been a year of significant change for WPP. Throughout, the board and the executive team have worked together closely to position the company for future success."
"Under Mark Read's leadership, the team has moved rapidly and decisively to implement the new strategy. We have been pleased by how well the plan has been received among investors, clients and partners. Critically, there is also strong backing for the company's direction and leadership among our own people."
Former WPP CEO and founder Martin Sorrell left the company in mid-April 2018 after the conclusion of an investigation into what WPP called "an allegation of misconduct" which it said did not "involve amounts that are material" to the company.
Sorrell has since founded rival London-listed advertising firm S4 Capital PLC.
WPP Chief Executive Read added: "In December we set out our vision for the future of WPP, and we continue to make progress in delivering our plan to return the company to sustainable growth over the next three years. Our financial guidance for the full year is unchanged."
Read said WPP's new business performance has been "solid" so far in 2019.
WPP also said the sale of its majority stake in data firm Kantar is progressing in line with its own expectations.
Separately, Sorrel's new firm S4 Capital announced it has hired former WPP Chief Strategy & Digital Officer as its Chief Growth Officer.
Scott Spirit spent 15 years at WPP, latterly as Chief Strategy & Digital Officer before joining artificial intelligence firm Eureka AI. He will remain on the board of Eureka AI.
Spirit was also a director of Nairobi listed WPP-Scangroup PLC, a WPP subsidiary operating in sub-Saharan Africa.
Spirit will be based in S4 Capital's newly opened Singapore office.
The advertising firm also announced it has hired Elizabeth Buchanan as a Non-Executive Director, effective immediately.
Buchanan has worked in the marketing and advertising industry for 25 years, setting up The White Agency. She previously held senior roles at WPP, media communications firm OMD Worldwide and transaction marekting platform Rokt.
Sorrell said: "I'm delighted to re-unite with Scott and to welcome him and Elizabeth to the team. I know that Scott's proven knowledge of global markets will be invaluable as we continue to expand the business technologically and internationally. Elizabeth has rare global experience at the forefront of innovation in the industry and that makes her an obvious choice for a disruptive, purely digital business like S4 Capital."
Shares in WPP were down 0.4% Wednesday at 998.80 pence each. S4 Capital was trading 0.8% higher at 166.39p.