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Should I Invest in WPP PLC (ADR) (WPPGY)?

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LONNDON — To me, capital growth and dividend income are equally important. Together, they provide the total return from any share investment and, as you might expect, my aim is to invest in companies that can beat the total return delivered by the wider market.

To put that aim into perspective, the FTSE 100 has provided investors with a total return of around 3% per annum since January 2008.

Quality and value
If my investments are to outperform, I need to back companies that score well on several quality indicators and buy at prices that offer decent value.

So this series aims to identify appealing FTSE 100 investment opportunities and today I’m looking at WPP PLC (ADR) (NASDAQ:WPPGY), which provides marketing communications services such as advertising and public relations.

With the shares at 1190 pence, WPP’s market cap is 15,054 million pounds.

This table summarizes the firm’s recent financial record:

Year to December 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Revenue (million pounds) 7,477 8,684 9,331 10,022 10,373
Net cash from operations (million pounds) 923 819 1,361 665 908
Adjusted earnings per share (pence) 56.7 45.1 59.3 71 77.7
Dividend per share (pence) 15.47 15.47 17.79 24.6 28.51

Marketing spend can be one of the first items that organizations trim in austere times, so the trading results of a company like WPP PLC (ADR) (NASDAQ:WPPGY) that provides such services can be something of a litmus test for gauging the health of the general economic environment.

WPP PLC (ADR) (NASDAQ:WPPGY)Recently, the firm has been doing quite well. The U.S. is the firm’s biggest market, providing about 35% of revenue, which is down 1% on a like-for-like basis in the last quarter. But in the less mature markets of the Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Europe, which collectively provide sales of around 29.1%, the like-for-like performance is up 7.8%. Predictably, Western Europe’s 23.4% contribution is down, by 0.8%, yet the 12.5% of revenue that originates in Britain is up 3.7%.

Overall, those results are encouraging and follow a steadily improving performance over the last three years. My view is that the macro-economic environment is likely to continue its recovery in the coming years and so I’m optimistic about WPP PLC (ADR) (NASDAQ:WPPGY)’s ability to please with regard to ongoing total returns.

WPP’s total-return potential
Let’s examine five indicators to help judge the quality of the company’s total-return potential:

  1. Dividend cover: adjusted earnings covered last year’s dividend around 2.7 times. 4/5
  2. Borrowings: net debt is running at around 2.4 times the level of operating profit. 3/5
  3. Growth: growing revenue and earnings with lagging cash flow. 4/5
  4. Price to earnings: a forward 13 or so seems up with growth and yield expectations. 3/5
  5. Outlook: good recent trading and a positive outlook. 5/5
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