WPP Shares Attractive After Price Slide, say Analysts

While WPP shares declined significantly after the third quarter results, Morningstar analysts believe the stock’s potential upside is appealing to investors

Ali Mogharabi 26 October, 2018 | 9:15AM
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WPP Shares Have Fallen

Shares in advertising giant WPP (WPP) slumped on Thursday after it reported a very disappointing third-quarter revenue update. Recent account losses and lack of more aggressive talent recruitment is costing the firm organic growth, unlike its peers such as Omnicom, Publicis, and IPG. The turnaround that we expected to take place in 2019 appears to be delayed. The firm lowered its 2018 organic growth and operating margin guidance for the year.

Accordingly, we lowered our projections for 2018 and 2019 and now do not expect much indication of a return to growth until late 2019 or in 2020, due to account losses this year and the firm’s necessary additional investment in technology and talent on the creativity front. We must note that net revenue to be generated from new account wins during the first three quarters exceeded those lost, which may indicate that a recovery for the firm is in the making.

The result of updating our model is a new per share fair value estimate of £14.50, lower than our previous £15. While WPP shares declined significantly after the third quarter results, we believe the stock’s potential 50%-plus upside is attractive. In addition, we think WPP’s dividend, which we view as safe, currently yields more than 6%. Plus, in our view, WPP shareholders may benefit from the possible sale of a portion of Kantar as the proceeds may be used for share buybacks.

More Account Wins Than Losses

Total net revenue for the quarter was down 3% year over year, to which foreign exchange contributed negative 2%, acquisitions added 0.6%, and organic took away 1.5%. While weakness of organic growth in North America was expected, declines in the UK and Western Europe is concerning, in our view. WPP had many large accounts in review during the last nine months, which we think may have caused some of those accounts to not spend as much as they normally would. The only bright spot during the quarter was the 2.4% organic growth in non-Western Europe, UK, and North America markets, which represent around 30% of total net revenue.

While WPP is losing some market share, we think down the road, during additional account reviews and opportunities, the firm will have a chance to regain some share. We note that the top ad holding firms – including Omnicom, Publicis, IPG, and the largest, WPP – will continue to be the main ones pitching to the biggest advertisers. We are confident that the brand equity of WPP and its agencies remains strong, as while organic growth numbers have been disappointing, we might see improvement during the next one to two years as indicated by WPP’s year-to-date big account wins and losses.

Based on the firm’s numbers and our estimates, the wins year to date represent around 34% more advertising billing than the losses. While WPP has lost some large and well-known accounts such as GlaxoSmithKline, American Express, HSBC, United Airlines, and the creativity part of its long time Ford account, it has also won businesses with Mars, Mondelez, Adidas, Hilton Hotels, Unilever, Sky, and T-Mobile. In addition, WPP is currently competing for the big Volkswagen account, on which a decision is likely to be announced in the next few months, a possible short-term catalyst for the stock. Publicis and Omnicom are also pitching for this account.

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security NamePriceChange (%)Morningstar
WPP PLC738.00 GBX0.35Rating

About Author

Ali Mogharabi  is an equity analyst for Morningstar

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