WPP Shares Slide by 4% as the Alarm Bells Ring

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL CLARK

SIR Martin Sorrell's comments on prospects for the ailing advertising industry are already well chronicled. But now there are new concerns about the trading outlook for his company WPP Group, which was one of the biggest fallers among the top 100 today.

The shares fell 15p, or 4%, to 353p after its biggest rival, Interpublic Group of Companies, overnight reported a whopping plunge in earnings per share of 21 cents to five cents during the fourth quarter. It blamed the setback on the downturn on its McCann-Eriskson subsidiary. Stock market bears warn WPP may be headed the same way. Sorrell has pulled no punches about prospects for the advertising industry which has been badly hit by the economic downturn. He is on record as saying he can see no sign of an upturn for several years. WPP shares have more than halved during the past year.

Share prices generally suffered their fourth consecutive day of falls following a loss of 102 points for the Dow overnight in New York.

The prospect of war with Iraq within days has left turnover at a low ebb on both sides of the Atlantic. The FTSE 100 index continued to nudge towards its low for the year with a fall of 30.1 to 3525.3.

Speculative support lifted Six Continents 11/2p to 606p following reports that rival hotels group Marriott International may be considering a bid, topping the u5.6 billion offer from Hugh Osmond. Marriott is believed to have had talks with various backers.

South African financial services outfit Old Mutual firmed 1/2p to 743/4p after completing a placing of 48.5 million shares at 74p to raise u36 million. Dimension Data put on 1/4p to 153/4p on further reflection of yesterday's gloomy trading update. Broker UBS Warburg has downgraded the shares from neutral to reduce and cut its target price from 22p to 13p. …

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