Ben Bold
May 11, 2023

S4 Capital reports Q1 billings hike of 26.5%

Performance helped by new assignments from advertisers including Suntory, Marriott, Pernod Ricard and H&M.

Sorrell: 'solid start to the year'
Sorrell: 'solid start to the year'

S4 Capital has reported a billings hike of 26.5% to £455.9m in the first quarter of 2023, up from £360.3m in Q1 2022, which the group said marked like-for-like growth of 10.4%.

Revenues for the three months ending 31 March totalled £261.7m, up 26.5% from £206.8m in the same period last year.

Sir Martin Sorrell, S4 Capital's founder and executive chairman, described the performance as a "solid start to the year, with net revenue rising 7% [on a like-for-like basis], while maintaining a
focus on balancing growth in net revenue with costs, which is reflected in our people numbers remaining almost constant".

S4 Capital, which owns MediaMonks, divides its business into three disciplines: content, data and digital media and technology services. Of those, technology services led net revenue growth, up 414.7% to £35m, followed by content (up 13.7% to £131.4m) and data and digital media (up 8.2% to £52.7m).

Net revenue grew 28.1% to £219.1m from £171.1m. Of this, the Americas commanded the lion's share, growing 39.4% to £173.6m, followed by EMEA, where net revenues fell 0.9% to £32.7m and Asia Pacific, down 5.9% to £12.8m.

Sorrell said the geographical split reflected "the growing relative importance of the North and South America 'pillar' markets, the last being affected by lack of growth in China, although prospects are improving significantly in the second quarter post-Covid lockdown".

In its preliminary results for 2022, S4 Capital reported a 46% boost in billings over the year thanks to 10 "whopper relationships".

In this latest trading update, the company said it had identified a "further 14 potential whoppers" that could "mature over the next few years", adding it expects progress over the course of 2023. It noted that it is not seeing significant cuts of budget reductions from clients but added: "It is clear that Q1 2023 started cautiously for many of them with sales cycles lengthening, particularly those in the technology sector."

During Q1 S4 Capital also won assignments from clients including Suntory, Marriott, Pernod Ricard, H&M and "two global FMCG companies, who will likely join the potential 'whoppers' list in time".

Sorrell said: "We maintain our full-year target of 8-12% net revenue growth and target 15-16% operational Ebitda to net revenue margin with net debt in the range of £180m to £220m."

2022 saw S4 Capital's operating profits hit £124.2m, up 23% on 2021. However, it still posted an operating loss of £135.3m due to "primarily combination-related expense, being payments linked to continued employment and the associated expenses".

S4 Capital’s annual report revealed that the S4 leadership fell short of targets for its full-year results, leading to Sorrell earning less than half of a potential £250,000 cash performance bonus.

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