WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell yet again under-promised and over-delivered -- a formula that ensures even the haruspices of Wall Street and London EC2 will not be disappointed.

The marketing services holding company notched a gain of almost 6% in first quarter revenues, lifting these to $1.7 billion (€1.42bn; £958.07m).

Excluding acquisitions and currency fluctuations, revenue rose not-quite 2%, reined-in by the politically deflated US dollar. The latter factor excluded, WPP's revenue increase would have been nearer twelve percent.

Regionally, the frontrunners were Asia Pacific, Latin America and Africa / Middle East, where collective revenues rose by more than 28%. The UK notched 12%, just ahead of North America's 11%, while Europe lagged the rest of the globe with marginally under 7%.

By operating sector the gains were:

Branding / healthcare / specialty communications +19%
Adverting and media services +14%
Public relations / public affairs +6%
Consultancy services +3%

WPP, number three in the global marketing services league (according to AdAge's 2002 rankings), reported net new-business billings of $926 million for the quarter.

As to the future? "There are an increasing number of new business opportunities, as clients turn their attention to managing for growth and the top line, rather than focusing totally on costs," says a WPP statement.

"In addition, there are signs that corporate capital expenditures (particularly in technology) are picking up, possibly filling any potential vacuum in consumer spending."

Data sourced from: AdWeek.com; additional content by WARC staff