Huntsworth, Chime and WPP results point to upturn in industry

PR agencies received a boost last week after results from three of the biggest marcoms groups showed notable revenue growth during the first half of 2010.

Listings: three major marcoms groups trade on the LSE
Listings: three major marcoms groups trade on the LSE

UK-listed group Huntsworth announced overall first-half revenues had grown 13.7 per cent, to £87m, with like-for-like revenue growth of 0.4 per cent.

The group saw strong performance in the Huntsworth Health division (7.1 per cent like-for-like growth), alongside revenue increases at The Red Consultancy (five per cent) and Citigate (4.2 per cent). But Grayling found life tougher after a significant restructure, posting a like-for-like revenue decline of 4.9 per cent.

Huntsworth chief executive Lord Chadlingon was bullish about the industry's prospects and his firm's own position. 'The market is clearly more buoyant than 12 months ago and the outlook is generally more positive,' he said. 'While there are still economic uncertainties throughout the world, our major reorganisation last year is beginning to produce some very positive results and we have 89 per cent of our fullyear revenues committed.'

Meanwhile, Chime Communications recorded a five per cent increase in revenue for its PR division for the first six months of the year.

The group saw PR revenue grow to £34.6m for the six months ending 30 June, while operating profit for the division rose 17 per cent.

The firm credited strong performances in public affairs, financial PR, technology PR, corporate and social responsibility, consumer and international operations for the growth.

KBC Peel Hunt analyst Malcolm Morgan noted: 'Rising M&A activity, increasing global regulation, the continued rise of digital and mobile platforms, and global recovery all provide a positive trading backdrop for the marketing comms sector.'

WPP provided further evidence of a sector bounce-back by announcing that its combined PR and public affairs business saw revenue grow 3.2 per cent during the first half of 2010. Overall, the group said like-for-like revenues were up two per cent.

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell said: 'I'm not sure we are quite out of recession. The outlook is for slow rates of growth. Clients are still focused on cost, effectiveness and liquidity.'

Havas announced first-half growth after PRWeek went to press.


Marcoms groups

- WPP's best-known PR agencies include Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe. Finsbury, Ogilvy, Buchanan and Clarion also form part of the group's PR offering.

- Huntsworth is built around four core consultancies: Citigate, Grayling, The Red Consultancy and Huntsworth Health, which includes recently acquired healthcare PR shop Tonic Life Communications.

- Chime comprises the Bell Pottinger brand, which includes Pelham Bell Pottinger and Bell Pottinger Public Affairs. Resonate, Harvard and Good Relations also form part of the group.

- Havas includes consumer PR shop Cake and sports specialists Havas Sports & Entertainment.


25.6%: The increase in operating profit for Huntsworth for H1 2010

35%: The increase in operating profit for Chime for H1 2010

33%: The increase in operating profit for WPP for H1 2010

658: The number of Chime pitch wins during H1 2010

Source: first-half results of respective companies.

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