Advertising multi-national WPP (WPP) says the UK general election in May is one of five 'grey swans' which cloud the outlook for its clients. The market though is shrugging off this warning to reward a record 2014 with pre-tax profits of £1.45 billion broadly in-line with expectations. Reports of a 'strong start' to 2015 and a likely FX-tailwind from the rising dollar are also supportive and the counter is currently ahead 0.9% at £15.55.
In a detailed outlook statement - which is well worth a read - the £20 billion cap says there's a danger the election could 'crimp' the UK recovery. The other risk factors it highlights are: a fragile eurozone; Middle East tensions; BRIC fears and the US deficit.
Looking at the numbers in a bit more depth, billings are flat at £46.2 billion – although up 6.8% on a constant currency basis while net debt is also flat at just over £3 billion.
Investec reiterates its 'buy' on the stock following today's statement and puts its forecasts and price target under review. It says: 'FY figures look fine overall, with 4Q like-for-like sales a bit slower than forecast but pre-tax profits slightly better'.
Liberum's not so sure and stays at 'hold' – though its £12.80 price target suggests a 'sell' would be more appropriate – and says, 'the shares are not cheap; are factoring in GDP recovery; and seem to be discounting secular issues'.