Company Announcements

WPP 2021 Interim Results

Strong first half across the business: returned to 2019 levels a year ahead of plan; full-year guidance raised; good progress on transformation; £350 million buyback planned for H2

NEW YORK & LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 5, 2021-- WPP (NYSE: WPP) today reported its 2021 Interim Results.

Key figures – continuing operations

£ million

H1 2021

 

+/(-) %

reported1

 

+/(-) %

LFL2

 

H1 20203

Revenue

6,133

 

9.8

 

16.1

 

5,583

Revenue less pass-through costs

4,899

 

5.0

 

11.0

 

4,668

 

 

 

 

 

Reported:

 

 

 

 

Operating profit/(loss)

484

 

n/m4

 

-

 

(2,751)

Profit/(loss) before tax

394

 

n/m

 

-

 

(3,177)

Diluted EPS (p)

20.6

 

n/m

 

-

 

(262.0)

Dividends per share (p)

12.5

 

25.0

 

-

 

10.0

 

 

 

 

 

Headline5:

 

 

 

 

Operating profit

590

 

54.4

 

-

 

382

Operating profit margin

12.1%

 

3.9pt*

 

-

 

8.2%

Profit before tax

502

 

81.9

 

-

 

276

Diluted EPS (p)

28.7

 

86.4

 

-

 

15.4

* Margin points

H1 and Q2 financial highlights

  • H1 reported revenue 9.8%, LFL revenue 16.1% (Q2 26.4%)
  • H1 revenue less pass-through costs 5.0%, LFL revenue less pass-through costs 11.0% (up 0.5% on H1 2019)
  • Q2 LFL revenue less pass-through costs 19.3%: US 12.6%, UK 31.8%, Germany 20.3%, Greater China 1.4%, Australia 8.4%, India 30.0%
  • Q2 LFL revenue less pass-through costs on 2019 1.3%: US 1.8%, UK 1.1%, Germany 6.3%, Greater China -1.7%, Australia -13.6%, India -2.6%
  • Strong new business performance: $2.9 billion net new billings in H1
  • H1 headline operating margin 12.1%, up 3.9 pt on prior year with strong top-line growth supporting significant reinvestment in incentives
  • H1 headline operating margin pre incentives up 7.8 pt to 17.0%
  • Net debt at 30 June 2021 £1.5 billion, down £1.2 billion year-on-year reflecting good working capital management

Strategic progress, shareholder returns and outlook

  • Shifting business mix: growth areas of experience, commerce and technology represented 26% of revenue less pass-through costs in H1
  • Launch of Choreograph, future-ready data and analytics company
  • M&A to simplify and grow: buy-in of WPP AUNZ minorities; technology acquisitions in Brazil and UK; Kantar agreed to acquire Numerator
  • Continued recognition of creativity and effectiveness: most creative company at Cannes, collecting 190 Lions including 12 Grand Prix, 1 Titanium, 28 Gold, 57 Silver and 92 Bronze
  • Industry-leading commitment to net zero carbon emissions across entire supply chain by 2030
  • £248m share buyback in H1, £350m planned for H2; 12.5p 2021 interim dividend declared, +25%
  • Full year 2021 LFL revenue less pass-through costs growth now expected to be 9-10%; headline operating margin towards the upper end of the 13.5-14.0% range

Mark Read, Chief Executive Officer, WPP:

“I’m delighted with our performance in the first six months of the year, at a time when COVID continues to take a toll on many countries. The like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs growth rate of 19.3% in the second quarter is our highest on record, as clients reinvest in marketing, particularly in digital media, ecommerce and marketing technology. We have returned to 2019 levels in 2021, a year ahead of our plan, with good momentum into 2022.

“We’ve also made very good strategic progress. Our recognition as the most awarded company at the 2021 Cannes Lions Festival reflects our investment in creative talent and the strength of our creative work over the past two years. Our focus on data, commerce and technology, through strategic acquisitions, organic investments and the launch of Choreograph, has supported a strong new business performance. Key assignment wins include AstraZeneca, Bumble, JP Morgan Chase and Pernod Ricard.

“In procurement, property and shared services, we are making strong progress as part of our overall transformation programme. We have significantly increased our incentive pools in the first half, to reflect the tremendous contribution of our people in these challenging times, and in line with our intention to reinvest in talent announced at our Capital Markets Day in December 2020.

“We expect our strategy to translate into benefits for all of our stakeholders: a powerful, modern offer to support our clients’ growth; a great place for our people to work; a positive contribution to communities and the environment; and good financial returns for shareholders, with the interim dividend raised 25% and £600 million of share buybacks planned in 2021.”

To access WPP's 2021 interim results financial tables, please visit: www.wpp.com/investors

First half overview

Market environment

The market recovery in the first half of the year has been much faster than expected. Successful vaccination programmes in our major markets have accelerated the easing of restrictions, stimulating economic activity. As the global recovery gathered pace, GroupM made a significant upward revision of its advertising forecasts, predicting that the global advertising economy will grow by 19% in 2021 (excluding US political advertising).

Much of this growth is expected to be captured by digital media, as the underlying trends accelerated by the pandemic, such as the shift to ecommerce and digitisation of media, have continued in the first half of 2021. GroupM forecasts show digital media spend increasing by 26% in 2021, a major uplift from the 15% estimated in December 2020. Spend on television advertising is expected to grow by 9%, as marketers continue to rely on the medium’s reach advantage to reinforce the strength of their brands. Most other advertising channels are expected to stabilise or grow during 2021, aside from magazines and newspapers where spend is expected to decline.

The recovery has been broad-based across all major markets as economies have begun to stabilise, supported by government stimulus and vaccination roll-outs. Based on GroupM forecasts, advertising spend in the UK will grow by 24% in 2021 driven by the economic recovery. Better than 20% growth in advertising spend is also forecast in Brazil and China. The US advertising market is expected to grow by 17% in 2021, or 22% excluding political spend.

Performance and progress

Revenue in the first half was £6.1 billion, up 9.8% from £5.6 billion in the first half of 2020, and up 16.1% like-for-like. Revenue less pass-through costs was £4.9 billion, up 5.0% from £4.7 billion in the first half of 2020, and up 11.0% like-for-like.

We have seen a strong recovery in the first half of the year, with LFL growth in revenue less pass-through costs across all sectors and most major markets. On a two-year basis we are 0.5% ahead of 2019 performance for the first half in terms of LFL revenue less pass-through costs, having been slightly below 2019 levels in the first quarter of the year.

The nature of our work for clients has continued to evolve. We have seen very strong demand from clients for commerce services. GroupM commerce billings increased 61% year-on-year in the first half. Our expertise in commerce was recognised in March, when Forrester named WPP a Leader among commerce services providers in the Forrester Wave™: Commerce Services, Q1 2021 report. Further highlighting our pivot to digital, GroupM’s proportion of digital billings has increased from 41% in 2020 to 43% in the first half of 2021.

Our PR business has performed strongly (LFL revenue less pass-through costs +7.4%), as WPP agencies remain a critical partner and advisor to our clients. We have seen high demand for purpose-related communications, as our clients have sought advice on how to engage with their own stakeholders on sustainability issues, and we see this as a significant opportunity for growth.

In terms of client sector performance, we have seen a sustained strong performance from our clients in the consumer packaged goods, technology and healthcare & pharma sectors, which together represent around 54% of our revenue less pass-through costs for designated clients. In the first half these sectors saw LFL revenue less pass-through costs growth of 11.3%, 14.5% and 13.4% respectively. Compared to 2019, their growth rates were 7.2%, 12.7% and 10.8%.

We have had a good performance in terms of new business, with $2.9 billion of net new business billings won in the first half. The performance of our integrated agencies, the strength and scale of our global footprint and the collaboration between agencies have continued to attract and retain clients. Key assignment wins include AstraZeneca, Bumble, Hyatt, JP Morgan Chase, L’Oréal, Pernod Ricard and Sam’s Club, and key retentions include the US Navy.

During the period, we continued to invest in strategically important areas. We announced the acquisitions of DTI, a digital innovation and software engineering business in Brazil, and NN4M, a leading mobile commerce partner for global brands. In addition, our 40% associate Kantar agreed to acquire Numerator, a technology-driven consumer and market intelligence company.

Our commitment to creativity is now being reflected more widely in our work and awards. WPP was named the most creative company of the year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June, reflecting the investments we have made in creativity and the strength of our talent. Our agencies collected a total of 190 Lions, including a Titanium Lion and 12 Grand Prix, with winners representing 38 different countries. We announced the appointment of Rob Reilly as Global Chief Creative Officer in January 2021, reinforcing our commitment to drive creativity across WPP.

We are making good progress on our transformation programme, as we lay the foundations for realising structural efficiencies in a number of areas. In property, where our campus strategy is well-advanced, we are on track to occupy 32 campuses by the end of 2021, with new cities this year including Detroit, Jakarta and Milan. The adoption of more hybrid working practices will further amplify the benefits of our campuses, and total establishment costs are expected to be below 6% of revenue less pass-through costs this year. In shared services, we are establishing global and regional hubs, and have already deployed units from four markets into these locations. In Enterprise IT, our benchmarking work has identified significant opportunities as we develop plans to reduce the gap between our cost of IT and the industry benchmark. In procurement, we are pursuing an extensive programme to consolidate our supplier base and re-tender existing supply arrangements to tackle the significant opportunities within our £2 billion of annual indirect spend.

We have also made further structural and organisational changes which simplify WPP and improve the way we go to market and serve clients. We have established Choreograph, a new global data company, bringing together the specialist data units of GroupM and Wunderman Thompson into a single company with global reach, accessible to all WPP clients and companies, and recently announced the appointment of Brendan Moorcroft as CEO. In addition, we have combined separate operations into a single brand research and analytics platform under BAV, creating the leading source of brand analytics on over 60,000 brands worldwide. This will enable us to better integrate brand data into our data analytics offer across WPP companies. Finally, we completed the transaction to take 100% ownership of WPP AUNZ, further simplifying the group structure.

Purpose and ESG

Environmental, social and governance issues are an increasingly important topic for all our stakeholders, particularly our clients and our people. WPP is at the heart of many of the pressing issues that we face as a society and the actions and judgements we make as a business are critically important.

WPP’s purpose is to use the power of creativity to build better futures for our people, our planet, our clients and our communities. In June, we hosted an ESG event for stakeholders, to set out our commitments and highlight the progress we have made across the four pillars of our purpose statement.

Putting purpose at the heart of our business makes WPP a more attractive employer for our people. In order to attract, retain and grow top talent we have continued to invest in our people strategy to ensure WPP is an employer of choice for all. This year we launched our first quarterly Pulse survey, an employee listening tool designed to better understand the sentiment of our people and highlight the areas we need to focus on. WPP is committed to real progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, and this year for the first time we have incorporated diversity and sustainability metrics into the compensation schemes for senior leaders. We have also increased our incentive pools, as part of our plan to reinvest savings in attracting and retaining talent.

Earlier this year, we announced our new commitments to reduce carbon emissions from our own operations to net zero by 2025 and across our supply chain by 2030. Our net zero pledges are backed by equally ambitious science-based reduction targets, which have been verified by the Science-Based Targets initiative. We have committed to reducing our absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions by at least 84% by 2025 and reduce Scope 3 emissions by at least 50% by 2030, both from a 2019 base year.

Many of our clients are making great progress on reducing their own emissions and we will continue to support them to reach their targets. We have been recognised for our creativity in ESG-related work at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity including a Titanium Grand Prix for Telenor work by Ogilvy in the mobile category, using technology to alleviate inequalities in Pakistan. In addition we won two design Grand Prix for AKQA’s work with H&M pioneering an in-store recycling system and Superunion’s work with Notpla, designing a sustainable alternative to plastic packaging.

WPP’s global scale and reach puts us in a unique position to build global partnerships and make a positive contribution to the communities in which we operate. This year, through the WPP India Foundation we set up a COVID relief fund, providing ambulances on call, organising oxygen concentrators, and supporting a vaccination drive for all our people and their families across India.

2021 guidance

Performance in the first half of 2021 has been strong, and we are confident of further good growth in the second half. As a result, we are raising our guidance for 2021 as follows:

  • Organic growth (defined as like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs growth) of 9-10% (previously mid-single-digits %), returning to 2019 levels a year ahead of plan
  • Headline operating margin towards the upper end of the range of 13.5-14.0%
  • Capex £450-500 million

In addition, our current projections for foreign exchange movements imply 4-5 percentage point drag to reported revenue less pass-through costs from the strength of sterling year-on-year. We also anticipate a net working capital outflow for 2021 of £200-300 million, reflecting some normalisation from the very strong position at the end of 2020.

Medium-term guidance

At our Capital Markets Day in December 2020, we set out our new medium-term financial targets that will allow us to invest in talent, incentives and technology, improve our competitive position and deliver sustainable long-term growth. These were:

  • Recovery to 2019 revenue less pass-through costs levels by 2022
  • 3-4% annual growth in revenue less pass-through costs from 2023, including M&A benefit of 0.5-1.0% annually
  • 15.5-16.0% headline operating margin in 2023
  • Dividend: intention to grow annually with a pay-out ratio around 40% of headline diluted EPS
  • Average net debt/EBITDA maintained in the range 1.5-1.75x

We now expect to recover to 2019 levels of revenue less pass-through costs on a like-for-like basis in the current year. The rest of these targets remain unchanged.

Financial results

Unaudited headline income statement:

Six months ended (£ million)

 

30 June

2021

 

 

30 June

2020

 

+/(-) %

reported

 

+/(-) % LFL

Continuing operations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revenue

6,133

 

5,583

 

9.8

 

16.1

Revenue less pass-through costs

4,899

 

4,668

 

5.0

 

11.0

Operating profit

590

 

382

 

54.4

 

 

Operating margin %

12.1%

 

8.2%

 

3.9pt

 

 

Income from associates

29

 

-

 

-

 

 

PBIT

619

 

382

 

62.0

 

 

Net finance costs

(117)

 

(106)

 

(10.4)

 

 

Profit before tax

502

 

276

 

81.9

 

 

Tax

(115)

 

(64)

 

(78.9)

 

 

Profit after tax

387

 

212

 

82.8

 

 

Non-controlling interests

(34)

 

(21)

 

(64.0)

 

 

Profit attributable to shareholders

353

 

191

 

85.0

 

 

Diluted EPS

28.7p

 

15.4p

 

86.4

 

 

Reconciliation of operating profit/(loss) to headline operating profit:

Six months ended (£ million)

30 June 2021

30 June 2020 6

Continuing operations

 

 

Operating profit/(loss)

484

 

(2,751)

Amortisation and impairment of acquired intangible assets

30

 

53

Goodwill impairment

-

 

2,813

Losses/(gains) on disposal of investments and subsidiaries

1

 

(16)

Investment and other write-downs

-

 

226

Litigation settlement

22

 

-

Restructuring and transformation costs

34

 

18

Restructuring costs in relation to COVID-19

19

 

39

Headline operating profit

590

 

382

Reported billings were £23.4 billion, up 12.2%, and up 19.3% like-for-like.

Reported revenue from continuing operations was up 9.8% at £6.1 billion. Revenue on a constant currency basis was up 15.8% compared with last year. Net changes from acquisitions and disposals had a negative impact of 0.3% on growth, leading to a like-for-like performance, excluding the impact of currency and acquisitions, of 16.1%.

Reported revenue less pass-through costs was up 5.0%, and up 10.8% on a constant currency basis. Excluding the impact of acquisitions and disposals, like-for-like growth was 11.0%. In the second quarter, like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs was up 19.3%.

Regional review

Revenue analysis

 

Q2

 

H1

 

£m

 

+/(-) %

reported

 

+/(-) %

LFL

 

£m

 

+/(-) %

reported

 

+/(-) %

LFL

N. America

1,121

 

4.2

 

16.7

 

2,184

 

0.3

 

10.2

United Kingdom

493

 

42.2

 

40.5

 

927

 

22.4

 

21.7

W Cont. Europe

728

 

37.1

 

41.1

 

1,341

 

22.7

 

23.5

AP, LA, AME, CEE7

893

 

14.2

 

22.7

 

1,681

 

8.1

 

16.0

Total Group

3,235

 

18.3

 

26.4

 

6,133

 

9.8

 

16.1

Revenue less pass-through costs analysis

 

Q2

 

H1

 

£m

+/(-) %

reported

+/(-) %

LFL

 

£m

+/(-) %

reported

+/(-) %

LFL

N. America

931

 

1.5

13.7

 

1,817

 

(2.1)

 

7.5

United Kingdom

359

 

31.7

31.8

 

680

 

16.1

 

16.9

W Cont. Europe

559

 

23.4

27.1

 

1,050

 

14.2

 

15.0

AP, LA, AME, CEE

716

 

8.8

16.1

 

1,352

 

3.5

 

10.5

Total Group

2,565

 

11.5

19.3

 

4,899

 

5.0

 

11.0

Headline operating profit analysis

£ million

2021

% margin*

2020

% margin*

N. America

271

14.9%

215

11.6%

United Kingdom

83

12.3%

35

6.0%

W Cont. Europe

104

9.9%

44

4.8%

AP, LA, AME, CEE

132

9.7%

88

6.7%

Total Group

590

12.1%

382

8.2%

* Headline operating profit as a percentage of revenue less pass-through costs

North America like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs was up 7.5% in the first half and up 13.7% in the second quarter. On a two-year basis, North America was up 0.9% like-for-like for the first half, with an improving trend in the second quarter. VMLY&R was consistently strong throughout the first half, and GroupM and Ogilvy led the recovery in the second quarter.

United Kingdom like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs was up 16.9% in the first half and up 31.8% in the second quarter. On a two-year basis, the UK was up 0.3% like-for-like for the first half, returning to growth in the second quarter. Of our major agencies, GroupM and AKQA Group showed the biggest improvements in the two-year trend in the second quarter.

Western Continental Europe like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs was up 15.0% in the first half and up 27.1% in the second quarter. We saw a strong performance in Germany, and Italy returned to two-year growth in the second quarter, but France and Spain are yet to recover to 2019 levels.

InAsia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central & Eastern Europe, like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs was up 10.5% in the first half and up 16.1% in the second quarter. All regions grew strongly, with Latin America the best-performing, followed by Central & Eastern Europe.

Business sector review

Revenue analysis8

 

Q2

 

H1

 

£m

+/(-) %

reported

+/(-) %

LFL

 

£m

+/(-) %

reported

+/(-) %

LFL

Global Int. Agencies

2,734

17.6

26.4

 

5,170

9.4

16.0

Public Relations

236

5.4

14.1

 

450

0.7

7.5

Specialist Agencies

265

42.1

40.6

 

513

24.9

25.8

Total Group

3,235

18.3

26.4

 

6,133

9.8

16.1

Revenue less pass-through costs analysis

 

Q2

 

H1

 

£m

+/(-) %

reported

+/(-) %

LFL

 

£m

+/(-) %

reported

+/(-) %

LFL

Global Int. Agencies

2,135

10.8

19.2

 

4,069

4.4

10.9

Public Relations

224

4.3

12.9

 

429

0.7

7.4

Specialist Agencies

206

28.6

27.8

 

401

16.1

17.1

Total Group

2,565

11.5

19.3

 

4,899

5.0

11.0

 

Headline operating profit analysis

£ million

2021

% margin*

2020

% margin*

Global Int. Agencies

483

11.9%

282

7.2%

Public Relations

63

14.8%

72

16.9%

Specialist Agencies

44

11.0%

28

8.1%

Total Group

590

12.1%

382

8.2%

* Headline operating profit as a percentage of revenue less pass-through costs

Global Integrated Agencies like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs was up 10.9% in the first half and up 19.2% in the second quarter. GroupM, representing 36% of revenue less pass-through costs, was the strongest performer, up 17.0% like-for-like in the half and up 28.6% in the second quarter. VMLY&R also recorded double-digit growth for the first half, and both businesses recorded encouraging two-year growth. Wunderman Thompson, Ogilvy and AKQA Group all showed a strong recovery in the second quarter.

Public Relations like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs was up 7.4% in the first half and up 12.9% in the second quarter. All parts of the business grew double-digits like-for-like in the second quarter, with Finsbury Glover Hering being the strongest performer.

Specialist Agencies like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs was up 17.1% in the first half and up 27.8% in the second quarter. We saw a very strong recovery in all our brand consulting businesses, with resurgent demand for our services. CMI, our specialist healthcare media business, also continued to perform well.

Operating profitability

Reported profit before tax was £394 million, compared to a loss of £3,177 million in the prior period, principally reflecting the £2.8 billion of impairment charges and £57 million of restructuring and transformation costs in the prior period (see table on page 8).

Reported profit after tax was £287 million compared to a loss last year of £3,188 million.

Headline EBITDA (including IFRS 16 depreciation) for the first half was up 45.8% to £699 million, and up 57.6% in constant currency. Headline operating profit was up 54.4% to £590 million. The strong improvement in profitability year-on-year reflects the recovery in revenue less pass-through costs after the significant impact of COVID-19 in the comparable period.

Headline operating margin was up 390 basis points to 12.1%. Total operating costs were up 0.5% to £4.3 billion. Staff costs, excluding incentives, were down 1.6% year-on-year to £3.2 billion, reflecting lower headcount. Establishment costs were down 15.8% at £265 million as we continued to benefit from our campus roll-out. IT costs were up 1.1% at £277 million and other operating expenses were down 13.4% at £242 million. Personal costs fell 40.7% to £52 million, reflecting very low travel costs. Excluding incentive payments as outlined below, operating costs were down 4.1% year-on-year.

The Group’s headline operating margin is after charging £15 million of severance costs, compared with £19 million in the first half of 2020 and £244 million of incentive payments, compared to £48 million in the first half of 2020. Excluding incentive payments, headline operating margin improved by 780 basis points to 17.0%.

On a like-for-like basis, the average number of people in the Group in the first half was 102,000 compared to 105,000 in the first half of 2020. The total number of people as at 30 June 2021 was 104,000 compared to 102,000 as at 30 June 2020.

Exceptional items

The Group incurred exceptional items of £107 million in the first half of 2021, mainly relating to restructuring and transformation costs and the amortisation and impairment of acquired intangibles, partially offset by the Group’s share of gains in relation to a disposal made by Kantar. This compares with a net exceptional loss in the first half of 2020 of £3.1 billion, which included impairments of £2.8 billion.

Interest and taxes

Net finance costs (excluding the revaluation of financial instruments) were £117 million, an increase of £11 million year-on-year, with the full impact of the coupons on the bonds issued in May 2020 offset by lower average net debt and foreign exchange movements.

The headline tax rate (excluding associate income) was 24.1% (2020: 23.1%) and on reported profit before tax was 27.2% (2020: -0.3%), with the difference in the reported tax rate in 2021 principally due to impairments in 2020. Given the Group’s geographic mix of profits and the changing international tax environment, the tax rate is expected to increase slightly over the next few years.

Earnings and dividend

Headline profit before tax was up 81.9% to £502 million.

Profits attributable to share owners were £253 million, compared to a loss of £3.2 billion in the prior period.

Headline diluted earnings per share from continuing operations rose by 86.4% to 28.7p. Reported diluted earnings per share, on the same basis, was 20.6p, compared to a loss per share of 262.0p in the prior period.

For 2021, the Board is declaring an interim dividend of 12.5p, an increase of 25% year-on-year. The record date for the interim dividend is 15 October 2021, and the dividend will be payable on 1 November 2021.

Further details of WPP’s financial performance are provided in Appendix 1.

Cash flow highlights

Six months ended (£ million)

30 June 2021

30 June 2020 9

Operating profit/(loss) of continuing and discontinued operations

484

(2,740)

Depreciation and amortisation

250

306

Impairments and investment write-downs

8

3,039

Lease payments (inc interest)

(202)

(203)

Non-cash compensation

44

31

Net interest paid

(65)

(32)

Tax paid

(163)

(201)

Capex

(138)

(141)

Earnout payments

(14)

(88)

Other

(44)

(45)

Trade working capital

(464)

(456)

Other receivables, payables and provisions

(41)

(295)

Free cash flow

(345)

(825)

Disposal proceeds

43

207

Net initial acquisition payments

(252)

(46)

Share purchases

(298)

(286)

Net cash flow

(852)

(950)

 

Net cash outflow for the first half was £852 million, compared to £950 million in the first half of 2020. The main drivers of the cash flow performance year-on-year were the higher operating profit and the improved working capital performance year-on-year, offset by higher consideration for acquisitions (relating mainly to the buy-in of the WPP AUNZ minorities and the equity contribution to Kantar’s acquisition of Numerator), lower net disposal proceeds and the £298 million of share purchases in the first half. A summary of the Group’s unaudited cash flow statement and notes for the six months to 30 June 2021 is provided in Appendix 1.

Balance sheet highlights

As at 30 June 2021 we had cash of £3.3 billion and total liquidity, including undrawn credit facilities, of £5.2 billion. Average net debt in the first half was £1.5 billion, compared to £2.5 billion in the prior period, at 2021 exchange rates. On 30 June 2021 net debt was £1.5 billion, against £2.7 billion on 30 June 2020, a reduction of £1.2 billion, or a reduction of £1.1 billion at 2021 exchange rates.

During the period, we converted the majority of our cash pool arrangements to zero-balancing cash pools, whereby the cash and overdrafts within these cash pools are physically swept to the header accounts on a daily basis, resulting in a reduction of the large gross cash and overdraft positions at 31 December 2020.

We spent £298 million on share purchases in the first half of the year, of which £248 million related to share buybacks.

Our bond portfolio at 30 June 2021 had an average maturity of 6.9 years. In June 2021 we served notice to repay the $500 million 3.625% September 2022 bond in July 2021. There are no further maturities until 2022.

The average net debt to EBITDA ratio in the 12 months to 30 June 2021 is 1.07x, which excludes the impact of IFRS 16. We also expect to end the year below our target leverage range of average net debt/EBITDA of 1.5-1.75x.

A summary of the Group’s unaudited balance sheet and notes as at 30 June 2021 is provided in Appendix 1.

________________________________
1 Percentage change in reported sterling.
2 Like-for-like growth at constant currency exchange rates and excluding the effects of acquisitions and disposals.
3 Prior year figures have been restated as described in note 2 of Appendix 1.
4 Not meaningful.
5 In this press release not all of the figures and ratios used are readily available from the unaudited interim results included in Appendix 1. Management believes these non-GAAP measures, including constant currency and like-for-like growth, revenue less pass-through costs and headline profit measures, are both useful and necessary to better understand the Group’s results. Where required, details of how these have been arrived at are shown in Appendix 2.
6 Prior year figures have been restated as described in note 2 of Appendix 1.
7Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & Middle East and Central & Eastern Europe.
8 AKQA, Geometry, GTB and International Healthcare have been reassigned from Specialist Agencies to Global Integrated Agencies from Q1 2021. 2020 figures have been restated to reflect this change.
9 Prior year figures have been restated as described in note 2 of Appendix 1.

Investors and analysts
Peregrine Riviere +44 7909 907193
Caitlin Holt +44 7392 280178
Fran Butera (US) +1 914 484 1198

Media
Chris Wade +44 20 7282 4600
Richard Oldworth, +44 7710 130 634
Buchanan Communications +44 20 7466 5000

wpp.com/investors

Source: WPP

image