If our clients experience financial distress, or seek to change or delay payment terms, it could negatively affect our own financial position and results.
We have a large and diverse client base, and at any given time, one or more of our clients may experience financial difficulty, file for bankruptcy protection or go out of business. Unfavorable economic and financial conditions could result in an increase in client financial difficulties that affect us. The direct impact on us could include reduced revenues and write-offs of accounts receivable and expenditures billable to clients, and if these effects were severe, the indirect impact could include impairments of intangible assets, credit facility covenant violations and reduced liquidity.
Furthermore, in most of our businesses, our agencies enter into commitments to pay production and media costs on behalf of clients. The amounts involved substantially exceed our revenues and primarily affect the level of accounts receivable, expenditures billable to clients, accounts payable and accrued liabilities. To the extent possible, we pay production and media charges only after we have received funds from our clients. However, if clients are unable to pay for commitments that we have entered into on their behalf, or if clients seek to significantly delay or otherwise alter payment terms, there could be an adverse effect on our working capital, which would negatively impact our operating cash flow.
International business risks could adversely affect our operations.
We are a global business, with agencies located in over 100 countries, including every significant world market. Operations outside the United States represent a significant portion of our revenues, approximately 40% in 2016. These operations are exposed to risks that include local legislation, currency variation, exchange control restrictions and difficult social, political or economic conditions. We also must comply with applicable U.S., local and other international anti-corruption laws, export controls and economic sanctions, which can be complex and stringent, in all jurisdictions where we operate. Failure to comply or to implement business practices that sufficiently prevent corruption could result in significant remediation expense and expose us to significant civil and criminal penalties and reputational harm.
Given our substantial operations in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe, we face uncertainty surrounding the implementation and effects of the U.K.’s June 2016 referendum in which voters approved the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, commonly referred to as “Brexit.” It is possible that Brexit will cause increased regulatory and legal complexities and create uncertainty surrounding our business, including our relationships with existing and future clients, suppliers and employees, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial results and operations.
In developing countries or regions, we may face further risks, such as slower receipt of payments, nationalization, social and economic instability, currency repatriation restrictions and undeveloped or inconsistently enforced commercial laws. These risks may limit our ability to grow our business and effectively manage our operations in those countries.
In addition, because a significant portion of our business is denominated in currencies other than the U.S. Dollar, such as the Australian Dollar, Brazilian Real, British Pound Sterling, Canadian Dollar, Chinese Yuan Renminbi, Euro, Indian Rupee and Japanese Yen, fluctuations in exchange rates between the U.S. Dollar and such currencies, including the persistent strength of the U.S. Dollar in recent periods, may adversely affect our financial results. In particular, Brexit has caused, and may continue to cause, significant volatility in currency exchange rates, especially between the U.S. Dollar and the British Pound Sterling.
We are subject to industry regulations and other legal or reputational risks that could restrict our activities or negatively impact our performance or financial condition.
Our industry is subject to government regulation and other governmental action, both domestic and foreign. Advertisers and consumer groups may challenge advertising through legislation, regulation, judicial actions or otherwise, for example on the grounds that the advertising is false and deceptive or injurious to public welfare. Our business is also subject to specific rules, prohibitions, media restrictions, labeling disclosures and warning requirements applicable to advertising for certain products. Existing and proposed laws and regulations, in particular in the European Union and the United States, concerning user privacy, use of personal information and on-line tracking technologies could affect the efficacy and profitability of internet-based and digital marketing. Legislators, agencies and other governmental units may also continue to initiate proposals to ban the advertising of specific products, such as alcohol or tobacco, and to impose taxes on or deny deductions for advertising, which, if successful, may hinder our ability to accomplish our clients’ goals and have an adverse effect on advertising expenditures and, consequently, on our revenues. Furthermore, we could suffer reputational risk as a result of governmental or legal action or from undertaking work that may be challenged by consumer groups or considered controversial.
We face risks associated with our acquisitions and other investments.
We regularly undertake acquisitions and other investments that we believe will enhance our service offerings to our clients. These transactions can involve significant challenges and risks, including that the transaction does not advance our business strategy or fails to produce a satisfactory return on our investment. While our evaluation of any potential acquisition includes business, legal and financial due diligence with the goal of identifying and evaluating the material risks involved, we may be unsuccessful