A well-placed source said a move was probable within two years. ‘It will be a credible competitor to the global networks in not too many years,’ the source said. ‘It is already in Hong Kong and to achieve its growth ambitions London is likely to be next.’
Huntsworth chief executive Lord Chadlington said it was a ‘possibility, but not a top priority’ when he unveiled the deal with his BlueFocus counterpart Oscar Zhao last week.
BlueFocus agreed to buy 19.8 per cent of the group behind Grayling and Citigate for £36.5m. Chadlington said the two businesses would start work on how to market themselves when he travels to China this week, but stressed he had no plans to reduce Huntsworth’s presence in the country.
‘Clearly, if we’ve got a client in the Grayling offices in Europe we’ve got to have Grayling offices in Beijing or Shanghai so there is continuity,’ he said. ‘With BlueFocus, we will look at ways we can do the reverse with its clients.’
But he added: ‘I think it’s very unlikely that we will have a BlueFocus office in every Grayling office. It will be much easier for BlueFocus to say to its clients that Grayling is its European network.’ Huntsworth employs 25 people in its Grayling and Citigate offices in Beijing and Shanghai, while BlueFocus has around 2,000 staff in the country.
Zhao said BlueFocus had worked closely with a Grayling team in London during the 2012 Olympic Games on a project for two Chinese local government clients. The two groups have partnered in China for several years and Huntsworth tried to buy BlueFocus in 2006, according to industry sources.
BlueFocus has been growing beyond PR, having acquired stakes in companies including Chinese ad agency Kingo and outdoor media company Eyes Media.