The BlueFocus acquisition of We Are Social: A look at the deal

PRWeek talks to Jim Houghton, partner at Results International who led the deal between We Are Social and BlueFocus, about how the deal happened and what the future will hold.

Jim Houghton: partner at Results International, which led on the deal
Jim Houghton: partner at Results International, which led on the deal

On the BlueFocus/We Are Social deal:

"Our original brief [for We Are Social] nearly two years ago now was to take a look at the business and figure out what we think of it. Robin and Nathan [Robin Grant and Nathan McDonald are co-founders  of the agency] had a really clear view of what they thought they could do for their business.

"We first started talking to BlueFocus and others in February of this year. We’ve known BlueFocus for a while as we have offices in Asia – we do a lot of mergers and acquisitions work in Asia and North America.

"Our Asia office knew BlueFocus well as it is the biggest marketing services group in China and it thought that the deal was a complete no-brainer. That was due to the strategy of BlueFocus, which is pretty clear: to grow revenues ten times and do that by going digital and global.

On the agency fit:

"You are looking at a very high growth digital marketing group to become your partner and there are very few of those, and when you’ve got one that is growing at close to 100 per cent per annum – and BlueFocus is growing at close to 70 per cent per annum – you think there’s got to be something in there, a core ingredient that indicates that’s probably going to be a good partnership. It was pretty compelling pretty quickly.

"We Are Social was deliberately built to be a global player from the outset. Robin and Nathan could have arguably made more money by running a UK-only business, but they built another seven offices internationally to be exactly this kind of platform company."

On going global:

"The brief [behind the deal] was really twofold. If you’re going to be a global social media player you’ve got to find a way to make that work in China, as everyone knows it’s very different from the West. Logically the best way to work that out is with the strongest indigenous marketing group to help you do it, so that was a strong attraction.

"It would be wrong to say that the deal is allowing We Are Social to get into China. The core premise for both parties is that We Are Social is a really strong brand that does stuff just that bit differently from everyone else out there, so it is about building that brand internationally."

On being a core digital brand:

"What BlueFocus has agreed to do as part of that commitment is to make We Are Social its primary digital brand outside China.

"BlueFocus has an enormously strong balance sheet, and incredibly strong share price. Its plan is to help We Are Social grow more offices and potentially even acquire on behalf of BlueFocus further down the track.

"It’s a global play rather than a China play, really."

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