LONDON: The UK stock market, accustomed to rosier results from UK-headquartered WPP Group, took fright on Friday and by close of business had marked-down stock in the globe's second largest marketing services business by almost 4% to £6.64 per share.
The unease was triggered by the release of WPP's results for the quarter ended September 30, during which revenues rose by 4.6% to £1.41 billion ($2.67bn; €2.10bn) with operating margins in line with the targeted 14.5%.
WPP's growth in the USA hit 8%, while in western mainland Europe, where the advertising economy has languished of late, the group lifted its revenues by 3%. On its UK home patch, however, revenue growth in the quarter was a meagre 1%.
The most robust growth, continues to come from the emerging economies of Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, across which regions revenues rose by almost 16%.
The stock market's reaction to WPP's latest set of numbers clearly weighed on the mind of ceo Sir Martin Sorrell who, interviewed by The Guardian newspaper, was ready to divert (in both senses of the word) the media and analysts by focussing on a secondary issue.
Which, in this case, was WPP's less than sparkling performance in its UK backyard.
This, Sir Martin blamed on the rise and rise of internet advertising, of which he claimed the UK has a significantly higher proportion than in many other countries, resulting in the switching of spend from more traditional media.
His rationale leaves some observers scratching their head in bewilderment as one pound spent is one pound spent, wherever its destination. However, his hypothesis appeared to satisfy the Guardian's interviewer.
In the UK, the web is projected to account for 14% of advertising spend in 2006, ahead of radio, outdoor and national newspapers. This, said Sorrell, is double the global average.
Nonetheless, he professes optimism. "I've got no pessimism about the future of the advertising and marketing services market, there are six or seven reasons why we should not be.
And those "six or seven reasons"?
Surely they'd be of keen interest to Guardian readers? The interviewer apparently thought not - or perhaps Sir Martin declined to say? Again, generalities ruled.
WPP remains on course to meet margin targets for this year and next, "despite continuing concerns among some commentators about the prospects of the United States economy, its twin deficits, the indebted consumer and the direction of interest rates and commodity prices, and their impact on inflation".
Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff