Sorrell talks up 2012 but warns of advertising headwinds in 2013

Advertising giant WPP yesterday described 2013 as a “cloud on the horizon” as it reported rising sales at the start of a year dominated by the Olympics and a US presidential election.

The group said like-for-like revenues rose 4 per cent to £2.4 billion in the first quarter and it now expected full-year revenue to rise more than 4 per cent.

The solid start was echoed by Aegis, a marketing group specialising in digital communications and media buying, which posted first-quarter organic revenue growth of 8.1 per cent.

Both groups benefited from strong growth in Asia Pacific and other emerging markets, while Aegis continued its strong momentum in the Americas, where it saw 20 per cent organic growth. Aegis won net new business worth $2.9bn (£1.8bn) in the first quarter, of which $2.5bn came from its new contract with car maker General Motors.

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell said: “The Uefa championships in central and eastern Europe, the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in London and last, but not least, the US presidential elections in November should underpin growth by 1 per cent alone this year.

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He said 2013 would not benefit from any such major events, but 2014 “looks a better prospect”, with the World Cup in Brazil, the Winter Olympics in Sochi and the mid-term Congressional elections in the US.

Jerry Buhlmann, chief executive of Aegis, said: “We remain confident about prospects for 2012. Our expectation is to continue to deliver sector-leading organic revenue growth and an improvement in underlying operating profit, year-on-year.”