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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.

Investment: Spectre of history back to haunt a robust WPP

STOCK MARKETS don't have much time for history, but yesterday the spectre of the past loomed over WPP. Even though the advertising group reported a sparkling set of interim results and made confident noises about the future, the shares were down 3p to 401p.

WPP broadens its horizons to grow

WPP, THE advertising group, is to set up divisions targeting the the financial services, high technology and entertainment sectors in an attempt to boost its long-term growth rate.

Born-again WPP joins the FT-SE 100

Advertising group WPP yesterday marked its recovery from near- bankruptcy when it was included in the FTSE 100 index of leading shares for the first time in its history. WPP joins Stagecoach, the bus and train operator, which also entered the index yesterday. Retailer Next and Wolseley, the building materials group, are the two companies which fall out of the index. WPP was built up by chief executive Martin Sorrell (below) through a series of audacious acquisitions in the late 1980s, but came close to collapse during the recession when advertising revenues dried up. A massive debt for equity swap rebuilt WPP's balance sheet, however, and the company has grown rapidly ever since - helping Mr Sorrell amass an pounds 18m fortune through his controversial share option package.Stagecoach's inclusion crowns the success of Brian Souter and Ann Gloag, who started off running bus services in Scotland before expanding rapidly through a series of acquisitions. Next, meanwhile, is the victim of its shock profit warning earlier this year.

Market Report: Market takes the base rate rise in its stride

IT WAS as if the base rate increase had been expected. The stock market took the shock uplift in its stride, deciding it was not such an unexpected move after all, and then enjoyed pouring cold water on all the twaddle produced by the highly paid economists which, to a man, had steadfastly asserted rates would be pegged at yesterday's Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

Clockwork meets satellite in a revolution for Third World radio

The Bayliss wind-up radio was an elegantly low-tech solution to a tricky Third-World development problem: what is the point of having a radio if you don't have mains electricity and can't afford the batteries to run it?

The Investment Column: WPP looks for further growth

WPP is an object lesson in the virtues of bottom fishing. Although investors who backed Martin Sorrell's attempt to build an advertising empire by debt-funded acquisition in the late 1980s all but lost their shirts, those who got in when the future looked bleak have done extremely well. In seven years, the share price has risen elevenfold. Of course, Mr Sorrell, through his lucrative share scheme, has also pocketed a few bob.

Sorrell is top marketing earner with pounds 2.8m

Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP Group, was once again the top earner in the marketing services industry last year, with a total pay packet of pounds 2.8m, according to the annual survey by Willott Kingston Smith. GGT Group's chairman and chief executive, Michael Greenlees, was awarded the biggest percentage pay rise in UK listed marketing companies. His pay rose 31 per cent to pounds 466,000. The survey found the industry was prospering, with pre-tax profits of the top 50 groups almost doubling to pounds 332m.

Top dollar rewards at Cordiant

From the soon to be demerged Cordiant advertising group comes another of those executive equity participation plans that will enrich senior employees beyond the dreams of avarice provided certain performance targets are met. These admittedly look quite challenging given that to hit the jackpot, the company has to achieve compound growth in earnings over three years of 25 per cent. Few stock market analysts give either of the demerged halves, Saatchi & Saatchi and Ted Bates in the US, much chance of hitting them, but then they said the same thing about Martin Sorrell at WPP and he's now laughing all the way to the bank.

Sorrell refuses to rule out bid by WPP for CIA

Speculation intensified yesterday that WPP, the world's largest advertising and marketing group, could mount a bid for CIA, the media buying agency, after Martin Sorrell, WPP's chief executive, refused to rule out such a move.

Zenith Media looks for buyer

Morgan Stanley, the US investment bank, has been approaching potential buyers for Zenith Media, the media buying agency which is part of the Cordiant advertising network.

CIA vulnerable to takeover as rival buys stake

CIA Group, the media buying network, looked increasingly vulnerable to a takeover bid yesterday after WPP Group, the world's largest advertising and marketing conglomerate, paid pounds 10.2m for a 14.4 per cent stake in the company.

Business Comment: Go-it alone Cordiant rediscovers an old truth

How Lord Saatchi must be smiling to himself - that is if he has time to in between trips to Conservative Party Central Office, where he is advising the Prime Minister on election strategy and advertising. With its demerger announcement yesterday, Cordiant, Maurice Saatchi's former company, has all but run up the white flag, in effect admitting that it is unequal to the task of regrouping and reinventing itself after the traumas of the last five years.

Investment Column: Sorrell finds it pays to advertise

Just weeks after Martin Sorrell raised the question of breaking up his WPP advertising group, Cordiant, home of the original Saatchi & Saatchi, yesterday announced it was doing the very same thing. The two companies appear to be travelling in the same direction, but the reality is very different.

Sorrell set to collect another share windfall

Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising giant WPP, is in line to scoop another share bonanza on Monday, worth pounds 3.2m at last night's closing price, under a reward scheme that could net him pounds 25m over five years. The issue of 1.2 million free shares, which Mr Sorrell must keep until September 1999, will represent the second of up to four bumper payouts that he will receive if WPP hits certain performance targets.

Cordiant rewards shareholders: The Investment Column

Investors who subscribed to Cordiant's deeply discounted pounds 127m rescue rights issue in 1995 are sitting pretty. It took a leap of faith to shell out 60p a share to back the marketing services group when it was staring into the abyss after founders Charles and Maurice Saatchi left in a huff and took large clients such as British Airways with them.
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