Following final completion in respect of the remaining Kantar business in the first half of 2020, total aggregate net proceeds after transaction costs, tax and WPP’s continuing investment in 40% of the equity of Kantar are expected to be approximately $3.1bn (approximately £2.4bn1).
The Kantar transaction was originally announced on 12 July 2019 and further details were included in a circular sent to WPP’s shareholders on 7 October 2019. As previously set out, WPP intends to retain approximately 60% of the net proceeds (approximately $1.9bn or £1.4bn) to reduce debt to the low end of the target leverage range of 1.5 – 1.75x average net debt/EBITDA2 for 2020, and to return approximately 40% of the net proceeds (approximately $1.2bn or £950m) to shareholders. WPP today announces that the return to shareholders will be executed via a share repurchase programme, which we expect to commence shortly, with an initial tranche of approximately £250m, of the total £950m, planned to be completed by March 2020.
Mark Read, Chief Executive Officer, WPP, said:
“The completion of the Kantar transaction, earlier than anticipated, achieves the objective we set out in December 2018 to strengthen our balance sheet, and substantially completes our disposal programme. It is a major step in simplifying and focusing WPP, and we intend to return around 8% of our share capital to shareholders through a buyback programme. The partnership with Bain Capital means that we will participate in the future growth of Kantar as well as allowing our clients to continue to benefit from Kantar’s services.”
1 All $ values are translated into £ at an exchange rate of £1:$1.31
2 Net debt/EBITDA ratio calculated excluding impact of IFRS 16: Leases
Source: Press release WPP, December 5th 2019