DUBLIN--WPP has reported PR and public affairs revenue growth of just 1.7 percent for the first four months of 2012, according to figures revealed at the company’s AGM today in Dublin.

While overall PR revenues grew by seven percent, the like-for-like increase was considerably lower, reflecting current caution in the sector. Chairman Philip Lader noted that PR earnings in North America were “slower”, and added that 2013 will not see a dramatic improvement in overall marketing sentiment.

“Looking further ahead, 2013 is likely to be more challenging,” said Lader. “There will be no maxi- or mini- quadrennial events in that year. A re-elected or newly elected United States president will have to confront the growing US budget deficit, whilst possibly dealing with a deadlocked Congress.”

Total WPP revenues were up four percent on a like-for-like basis. The financial results, however, were overshadowed by 60 percent of WPP shareholders voting down the holding company’s remuneration report. After considerable criticism from major shareholders and campaign groups in recent days, the result was unsurprising, and underlined continued shareholder discontent with executive pay.

"Our Board exercised its best judgment in the context of the company's record year, international
competitors, and the executives' performance,” said Lader. “We appreciate our share owners' support on the reelection of all directors and all other resolutions, take the remuneration report vote seriously, will consult with many share owners, and will then move forward in the best interests of our share owners and our business.”

The key point of contention concerned CEO Sir Martin Sorrell’s pay package, which increased by 60 percent to £6.8m in 2011. Shareholder votes are not binding, and Lader indicated after the AGM that any consideration of changing Sorrell’s remuneration was “premature.”

Sorrell has publicly defended his pay hike, and today pointed to the company’s growth since its launch in 1985, and the return of cash to shareholders.