WPP reported today PR and PA operations fell 1.7% to £921M ($1.3B) for 2013, although a rocky first nine months of the year turned to growth in the fourth quarter.
PR/PA was outpaced by 2013 gains in advertising/media investment management (+5.5%, £4.6B), data investment management (+1.6%, £2.5B), and branding/healthcare/specialty comms. (+3.9%, £3B).
Total revenue for the year at WPP climbed 3.5% to top $11B, including a 4.6% increase in the second half. Net profit climbed 14% to nearly $1.6B.
PR and PA were among a handful of operations that fell short of performance targets for the year and WPP said "overall 2013 was difficult for many of the group's public relations and public affairs brands, particularly in North America, Continental Europe, Latin America and the Middle East." Despite "careful cost management" in PR/PA, WPP said margin for the segment actually declined to 14.5%.
WPP's PR operations include Ogilvy PR, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Glover Park Group and Burson-Marsteller, among others. Revenues rose 1.2% in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Currency fluctuations, specifically a strong British pound, hurt profits for the year and caused WPP to miss earnings targets. Its stock fell more than five percent in overseas trading this morning.
WPP will be eclipsed in size by the pending Omnicom-Publicis merger, but CEO Martin Sorrell said he sees opportunities to win business and talent from the combined company.