LONDON: In a classic display of conflicting interests, news-hungry business journalists and image-conscious ad agency executives are in a bipolar standoff as to WPP Group's staff layoff plans.

According to a report in UK Sunday title The Observer, a WPP mole revealed that WPP units whose staff costs exceed 60% of revenue are expected to "trim back" on employee numbers to meet internal guidelines.

A statement that an imaginative journo with a calculator and an eye for a strapline extrapolated to "several thousand jobs".

The Observer's story follows an earlier revelation that WPP ceo Sir Martin Sorrell met with the bosses of all major group units in November and December to discuss budgetary issues.

A not unusual year-end practice, yet one that in the current economic climate has led to a flurry of speculation about mass layoffs – a figure of ten per cent has been bandied about - albeit dismissed as "rubbish" by an unnamed WPP executive.

Sir Martin, as ever conscious of WPP's share price, is playing it cool. Not for him the admission of group-wide layoffs by his Omnicom and Interpublic peers.

Instead a bland statement by a spokesman that the holding company is "not preparing any announcement of redundancies and that these would be handled by individual divisions".

WPP's global headcount is said to exceed 100,000.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff