LONDON (Reuters) - WPP, the world's largest advertising company, recovered from third quarter weakness to post annual growth in organic revenue ahead of expectations and said it had started the year strongly.
WPP reported like-for-like revenue growth of 2.9 percent in 2012, beating market expectations of 2.6 percent and in line with its own targets.
It previously pared back its forecast after a sharp slowdown in North America and Continental Europe in the third quarter.
A strong end to the year echoed performances from rivals Omnicom and Publicis, who noted an improvement in emerging markets and the United States and were cautiously optimistic on the outlook for 2013.
Many of the macroeconomic problems cited by advertising companies over the last few quarters, including instability in the euro zone and a slowdown in China, have been easing.
WPP, whose portfolio includes Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam, works for clients including Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Shell, said on Friday revenues in January rose 2 percent, with all regions improving except North America.
The group said it was targeting 3 percent like-for-like revenue growth, adding that it expected 2013 to be similar to last year in terms of client confidence.
WPP posted headline 2012 pretax profit of 1.3 billion pounds on revenue of 10.4 billion, up 3.5 percent. It raised its dividend 16 percent to 28.5 pence.
Reporting by Lorraine Turner, editing by James Davey and Sarah Young