Last Updated Sep 4, 2009 4:22 PM EDT
More seriously, it marks something of an inflection point for WPP and its agencies, such as Ogilvy & Mather and JWT. With the acquisition of TNS, CEO Martin Sorrell has stretched his creditworthiness to the absolute limit in an ambitious bet that now is the agency's darkest hour -- and there is only light ahead.
Moody's agrees with that notion, which is why the current rating of Baa3 is also ranked "stable." But, the ratings service warned, per the FT:
A stable rating outlook reflects Moody's expectation that cost management steps taken by the company should be more effective in shielding profits from the full weight of the ongoing revenue decline compared to the first half of 2009...
Moody's said any indication that these targets were not being met could lead to a further downgrade.WPP has Â£8 billion in current assets, of which Â£1 billion is cash. Its net debt is Â£3.5 billion. Virtually none of that debt is due this year or next. But merely financing the existing debt costs Â£90 million a year. More importantly, advertising must absolutely rebound by 2014 when $1.2 billion comes due.
So, Sorrell has plenty of time to maneuver, but not much room to maneuver in.
- See previous coverage of WPP:
- WPP's Sorrell Sets Up Best of All Worlds for Wednesday's Revenue Report
- Sorrell Between Rock, Hard Place as He Balances Debt, Stock and His Own Pay
- Did You Check Out WPP's Line of Bath and Kitchen Products?
- Wall Street Downgrades WPP on Debt Fears; Has Sorrell Reached His Credit Limit?
- Citi Cuts WPP to "Sell"; Sorrell Defends "Suicide Pact" on Pay; Attacks Obama on Taxes
- WPP Q1: Debt Doubles; "It's All Lehman Brothers' Fault"
- WPP's Ireland HQ Is Nothing But a Tax Dodge
- WPP Leaves U.K. for Ireland to Avoid Tax
- IS WPP at Risk of Breaching Its Debt Obligations?
- Fitch Cuts WPP's Debt Rating; Suggests Pay Reductions