Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital shares plunge after audit delay

Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital SFOR -35.68%

PLC shed more than a third of its market value after it announced late Wednesday that its auditor needed more time to certify its results, raising investor concerns about the advertising company’s existence.

The London-listed digital advertising and marketing services group said it was informed in the afternoon that its auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, “were unable to complete the work required for S4 Capital to issue the preliminary statement tomorrow morning “.

S4 added that it will release its 2021 results “once PwC has completed its work”. The company’s shares closed more than 35% lower.

The disclosure marks the second time this month that the company has been forced to delay its earnings report. In early March, S4 cited the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in postponing its 2021 earnings report from March 18 to March 31.

S4’s 2021 results “remain in line with market expectations,” the company said on Wednesday.

Mr Sorrell declined to comment. A PwC spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

S4 broke down in tears during the pandemic as advertisers moved more of their ad dollars online. The company snagged big clients, including work for Oreo maker Mondelez International inc

and a big piece of BMW AGs

account in Europe.

Mr. Sorrell, a former CEO of advertising giant WPP PLC, built S4 through a series of acquisitions, focusing solely on agencies experienced in digital advertising.

Since 2018, he has closed more than two dozen deals and acquired companies that specialize in building apps, handling data and using influencers. The company was valued at around $6 billion in October.

More recently, S4 went through a rough patch as the cost of expansion hurt its profit margin. Investors also questioned whether S4 might encounter the same integration issues that dogged Mr. Sorrel when he was at the helm of WPP.

Mr Sorrell launched S4 in 2018 after his bitter departure from WPP, a company he helped transform from a little-known UK manufacturer of wire baskets into the world’s largest advertising holding company.

Towards the end of his tenure at the advertising giant, Mr. Sorrell was criticized for not reacting quickly enough to the rise of online advertising. Specifically, investors wanted WPP’s myriad agencies to start working together instead of competing with each other.

His brief departure from WPP spurred the 77-year-old manager who, after leaving WPP, threw himself into a whirlwind of activity that led to the rise of S4.

write to Nick Kostov at

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