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WPP set for its best day in a decade after earnings beat

  • Net sales were down 0.1 percent like-for like, it said Monday, but this beat estimates of a 1 percent drop.
  • WPP's Executive Chairman Roberto Quarta said in a statement that the figures were "in line with our expectations" while adding that the company's 2018 full-year guidance would remain unchanged.
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Advertising giant WPP posted better-than-expected earnings for its first quarter, as it looks to an uncertain future in the wake of its CEO Martin Sorrell stepping down.

Net sales were down 0.1 percent like-for like, it said Monday, but this beat estimates of a 1 percent drop.

WPP's Executive Chairman Roberto Quarta said in a statement that the figures were "in line with our expectations" while adding that the company's 2018 full-year guidance would remain unchanged.

The earnings report follows a flat like-for-like result for the year 2017, the news of which led to a sharp drop in share prices and $2.6 billion wiped off its market cap at the start of March. Former CEO and founder Sorrell described it as "not a pretty year."

Sorrell stepped down from the company's leadership in mid-April amid allegations of misconduct, leaving WPP without the man who built it and led with what some described as a cult of personality for 33 years.

"He's literally Mr. WPP," one media analyst said. Questions over succession are key to the company's future, industry analysts broadly agreed. In the meantime, WPP veterans Mark Read and Andrew Scott are serving as joint chief operating officers.

The developments come against the backdrop of a rapidly changing environment for advertisers, as digital giants Facebook and Amazon disrupt traditional industry juggernauts and capture a consistently increasing proportion of market share. Technological changes have also led to greater consolidation among companies and service providers.

WPP shares were up 9 percent as the market opened Monday morning. They were set for their best day in a decade, according to Reuters data.