LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters) - WPP, the world's largest advertising company, posted third-quarter organic revenue well ahead of expectations, stealing a march on its two biggest rivals which are locked in the process of merging.
The British firm, run by Martin Sorrell, said like-for-like growth was up 5 percent in the third quarter, a clear acceleration from the 2.4 percent growth it reported in the first half and ahead of the 3.8 percent predicted by analysts.
The key rate of growth was also well ahead that reported by its two biggest rivals, Omnicom and Publicis, the second and third-largest advertising groups by revenue.
Those firms are hammering out the details of a merger to leapfrog WPP and become the world's largest advertising company.
France's Publicis reported a slowdown in trading earlier this month when it posted organic revenue growth of 3.5 percent while Omnicom of the United States reported growth in that period of 4.1 percent.
WPP did not change its outlook but it said provisional forecasts for the fourth quarter showed a rate of growth similar to the first nine months. It recorded nine-month organic growth of 3.3 percent.
"WPP has produced impressive third quarter results, with organic revenue growth of 5.0 percent, well beyond our expectation for 3.4 percent and its peers," analysts at Numis said. "WPP is one of our key picks for 2013 and we retain our positive stance."
The group said the improved trading was due to an easier comparative last year and improvements in North America, Britain and Latin America. It reported growth from its British business at 8.1 percent while western continental Europe was relatively robust at 2.6 percent growth.
Organic growth in North America was 4.6 percent.