London-headquartered WPP Group - the globe's second largest agency holding company by 2003 billings - reported Tuesday that quarterly revenues had burst though the £1 billion ($1.84bn; €1.44bn) barrier for the first time.

Globally, WPP increased its revenues year-on-year by 4%; in North America by 10%; on its UK home patch revenues were up 12%; and in continental Europe by 7%.

But even these performances were outclassed by WPP units in the rest of the world (Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East) which collectively gained 22%.

But ceo Sir Martin Sorrell played his usual cautious card, insisting that visibility for 2005 is fogged by uncertainty. "The jury remains out on 2005," he declared.

"There are still concerns about the prospects for the US economy after the presidential election, with its fiscal deficit, weak dollar and rising commodity prices, including oil, although the weakness in some of the major markets in Western Europe is ameliorating.".

By sector: advertising and media revenues were up 9% and PR and public affairs rose by 8%. But outshining its sector siblings was 'insight and consultancy' WPP-speak for market research and futurology, in which arcane endeavour revenues rose by 18%.

Despite his reluctance to speculate about WPP's fortunes in the upcoming year, Sorrell had no such reservations about the advertising business as a whole.

Next year's industry growth rates would be around 2% to 3%, compared with 3% to 4% this year, although the expected US slowdown might be eased by continued growth in Asia Pacific - given always that the Chinese economic bubble doesn't burst. Continued recovery in Western Europe and Latin America would also help the overall situation.

As to Grey Global Group, acquired by WPP in September, its integration within the WPP structure is expected to be complete by early next year.

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff