Mark Read
Mark Read

WPP today reported a 1.3 percent drop in 2018 revenues to $20.6B and an 8.8 percent decline in profits to $2.3B as CEO Mark Read begins his three-year turnaround plan to make the UK giant a more client-centric operation focused on creativity and technology.

The company reported $310M in restructuring and transformation costs during Q4 and $400M for the full year.

Headcount dipped 1.2 percent to 133,903 at yearend.

WPP, which is looking for a financial and strategic partner for Kantar, made 36 "disposals" since last April, which strengthened its balance sheet by raising about $1.1B in cash.

Since Read's Investor Day presentation in December, WPP has completed 70 of its 100 planned office mergers, shuttered 57 of its targeted 80 offices and says 2,650 of the 3,500 planned "redundancies have been actioned," according to its financial report.

He cited PR and PA as the strongest performing segments during Q4 with a 3.3 percent growth in constant currencies and a 1.2 percent spurt on a like-to-like basis, respectively. The group was down 0.4 percent on a reported basis to $1.5B for 2018.

BCW Global, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Finsbury and Buchanan were singled out as strong performers.

The WPP chief expects 2019 will be a challenging year, especially during the first-half due to "headwinds from client losses in 2018."

His primary focus this year is boosting business in North America, which chalked up lackluster performances in advertising, data investment management and healthcare in 2018, which was partly offset by a solid improvement in the PR and PA unit.