Mark Read
Mark Read

Happy days are almost here again for WPP. CEO Mark Read told investors Dec. 17 to fasten their seat belts because the biggest ad/PR combine is ready to take off in 2021 in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

His optimism comes after Read tidied up the sprawling and somewhat unwieldy enterprise that was put together by Martin Sorrell, who is now busy creating the son of WPP.

He merged firms, cut staff and jettisoned the bulk of the Kantar market research outfit.

Read promises double-digit headline EPS growth over the next year and three to four percent annual revenue growth from 2023.

He anticipates an acquisition blitz of $250M to $500M annually in high growth areas of commerce, experience and technology.

Read wants those sectors to grow from 25 percent of today’s total to 40 percent by 2025.

The ebullient CEO may have gotten a little ahead of himself.

Citi analyst Thomas Singlehurst told the Financial Times that Read served up a “Christmas feast” and "there seem to be no areas where they seem to be particularly Scrooge-like.”

Merry Christmas, Mark. WPP shareholders wish you all the best in 2021.

Robinhood Financial is a star of the COVID-19 pandemic as stuck-at-home and bored amateur investors spent much of their days using its commission-free platform.

Those punters may be a bit unnerved by the Dec. 17 announcement from the Securities and Exchange Commission charging Robinhood with misleading customers about how it makes money.

According to the SEC, Robinhood from 2015 to late 2018 made misleading statements and omissions in customer communications, including the FAQ pages on its website, about its largest revenue source when describing how it made money—namely payments from trading firms in exchange for Robinhood sending its customer order to those firms for execution.

The SEC claims that Robinhood’s selling points about commission-free trading are due in large part to its unusually high payment for order flow rates. Robinhood customers’ orders were executed at prices that were inferior to other brokers’ prices.

Robinhood, which did not admit or deny the charges, agreed to pay a $65M civil penalty.

Chief legal officer Dan Gallagher said the fine stems from historical practices that do not reflect the company of today, one that is “fully transparent in our communications with customers about current revenue streams.”

One down and one to go. Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against Robinhood on Dec. 16, charging it with using “gaming strategies to manipulate customers.”

The Commonwealth claims Robinhood has turned the serious business of investing into a “game.”

Robinhood denies that charge and says it is studious in serving the needs of customers. “Millions of people have made their first investments through Robinhood, and we remain continuously focused on serving them,” a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch.

Robinhood could turn out to be the shooting star of the pandemic.

Still-at-home for the holidays… Nearly seven-in-ten (69 percent) of Americans won’t be traveling for Christmas, according to a survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Assn.

The Centers for Disease & Prevention has advised people to stay at home in order to prevent a surge of COVID-19. About three-in-four of those intrepid travelers plan to stay with their family or friends, which is terrible news for the AH&LA.

When it comes to hitting the road, Americans have followed the CDC’s counsel. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March, only 32 percent of the survey respondents took an overnight vacation or leisure trip.

Things aren’t looking much rosier for the travel business in 2021, as only 44 percent of respondents plan to take a business or leisure trip.

Widespread distribution of COVID-19 vaccines can’t come soon enough for the battered hotel industry.