Sage of Soho declares advertising booming but attacks rival merger

WPP cheered the City yesterday as its half-year profits surged almost 20 per cent to £429m and the advertising giant promised to keep raising the dividend.

Group revenue growth accelerated from 2.1 per cent in the first quarter to 2.7 per cent in the second and 5 per cent in July, fuelling hopes for the global economy, as advertising is a key bellwether. UK sales rose strongly, by 5.4 per cent, in the last quarter, and that growth is accelerating.

WPP is set to lose its crown as the world's biggest ad group after last month's Publicis and Omnicom Groupe merger. Its chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, stepped up his attack on his rivals. The so-called Sage of Soho said 'Pog', as he describes it, would be "clunky" and there would be serious "disruption to people and clients".

He suggested the motivation was "incentives, retirement plans, lower taxes and very little to do with client benefits".

"Probably the best articulation for the merger came from their lawyer in an interview with Bloomberg Law when he said they would be headquartered, before correcting himself to say registered, in the Netherlands," Mr Sorrell said.

Playing down talk that he will go on a buying spree to counter the merged group, he said WPP and companies in which it had stakes employed 170,000 people, with turnover of $23bn (£15bn) — still more than Publicis Omnicom.

WPP shares rose 49p to 1,227p.