WPP's Chief Financial Officer Paul Richardson says the group is planning to sell up to 80% of its market research division Kantar, in a bid to address recent weak company performance.
Last month, WPP started a formal process to review the future ownership of Kantar, looking at potential external partners, but stressing that it would retain a stake in the business. In September, WPP reported that revenue for its DIM (Data Investment Management) division had fallen 4.9% during the second quarter to £640m - equivalent to a 1.5% drop in constant currency terms. The division houses Kantar TNS, Kantar Millward Brown and Lightspeed, along with many specialist firms. At the time, analysts were valuing the business at between $3 billion and $4 billion, and estimated it might fetch as much as $4.9 billion if sold.
At a Morgan Stanley conference held yesterday in Barcelona, Richardson (pictured) said the size of WPP's remaining stake in Kantar would range from 20% to 49%, depending on the price. In addition, Richardson said that the company has identified smaller 'disposal targets' and is looking at ways to offload them in an attempt to cut its debt-to-earnings ratio. Speaking at the conference, Richardson also said that a third of WPP's business faces 'structural challenges' if it is to get closer to clients and be more cost effective.
Richardson, who worked with WPP founder Sir Martin Sorrell for decades, has decided to retire after 22 years with the company next year.
Web sites: www.wpp.com and www.kantar.com .
All articles 2006-19 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas.