Sir Martin Sorrell looks to expand WPP's Chinese empire

WPP has reasserted its ambitions in China with plans to acquire controlling stakes in up to five domestic companies.

Focusing on research, PR, advertising and healthcare, the acquisitions will see WPP's China-based workforce double to 2,000 by 2007.

WPP is already dominant in China with 15 per cent share of the country's ad market. JWT and Ogilvy & Mather are both top five agencies, while MindShare is China's largest media buyer.

Sir Martin Sorrell, the WPP chief executive, has long made his ambitions for China clear, having called the country "the political and economic superpower of the 21st century" during a visit in 1999.

China's advertising market grew by an average of 15 per cent annually between 1999 and 2003. Currently valued at $9 billion, China is expected to leapfrog the UK and Germany to become the world's third-largest advertising market by the end of this year.

Advertisers are eager to reach China's rapidly expanding middle class.

Now 100 million-strong, the more privileged segment of the population is expected to double by 2010.

- China special report, p28.