LONDON--WPP's public relations and public affairs revenues grew by one percent on a like-for-like basis during the first half of this year.

The  holding group, which owns numerous PR firms, including Hill + Knowlton Strategies, Burson-Marsteller, Ogilvy PR and Cohn & Wolfe, saw PR and PA revenues rise to £459m in the first half of this year.

This represents a 6.8 percent rise on the same period in 2011, if the impact of currency movements and acquisitions are not excluded. WPP made numerous PR acquisitions and investments during the period in question, in the US, UK, Finland, Russia and Australia. 

The unit's operating margin dropped by two points to 13.5 percent. In the second quarter of this year, PR revenue grew by just 0.3 percent on a like-for-like basis.

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell pointed in particular to "strong growth" at Cohn & Wolfe, which has stepped up its Asia-Pacific expansion in recent months, and also singled out German firm Hering Schuppener for praise.

However Sorrell also noted that "the USA, the UK and Asia Pacific grew less strongly in the second quarter, with the public affairs businesses in Washington and  Penn Schoen Berland, the USA polling business in Burson-Marsteller, particularly affected."

Sorrell said that the outlook for the remainder of 2012 would mimic the previous two years: "the same but less."

"There remain continuing concerns over the Eurozone, Iran and the Middle-East and the impact of these on faster growing markets’ growth rates," said Sorrell.

"There is also the elephant in the room, that many ignore, the growing US fiscal deficit, which with the nomination of Paul Ryan as the Republican vice-presidential nominee, looks set to be the defining issue of the 2012 US presidential campaign."

He also said that 2013 is likely to be "more challenging", thanks in part the the absence of "maxi-quadrennial" events such as Euro 2012, the Olympics and the US presidential elections.

"A re-elected or newly elected US president will have to confront the growing US budget deficit, whilst possibly dealing with a deadlocked Congress," added Sorrell. "However, 2014 looks a better prospect, with the World Cup in Brazil, the Winter Olympics in Sochi and the midterm congressional elections in America."