Mergermarket's debut NA rankings raise questions

NEW YORK: Mergermarket, a London-based company providing web-based M&A information, issued a press release last week stating that Kekst & Co. and Financial Dynamics had topped the company's first-ever M&A rankings of North American PR agencies.

NEW YORK: Mergermarket, a London-based company providing web-based M&A information, issued a press release last week stating that Kekst & Co. and Financial Dynamics had topped the company's first-ever M&A rankings of North American PR agencies.

The rankings are said to cover M&A activity for the first six months of this year. The company has ranked European PR firms by their M&A work for years, said CEO Caspar Hobbs. It started ranking US firms following the opening of a New York office last year.

But some sources have questioned the tables' accuracy, and Mergermarket's CFO, Gown Roan Hamilton, said in an interview that the company has had "a dialogue with various [firms] that are surprised by their position on the [rankings]."

Hamilton said that some firms are concerned that not all of their deals have been taken into account. "This is the first time we've done this in the US," Hamilton said. "It is data done to the best of our ability. I believe in what our data is telling us."

Deals with undisclosed value may have been estimated, he said, by looking at company revenue or employee figures.

The company said that Kekst topped the rankings in value, handling 36 deals valued at more than $91 billion, while FD led the rankings in volume, handling PR for 44 deals, totaling $11 billion. Kekst finished second in volume. Citigate Sard Verbinnen finished second in value, with 34 deals totaling $90 billion.

To compile the rankings, Mergermarket collected M&A information from investment banks and then matched those deals to the PR firms that handled them. The PR firms, Hobbs said, had the opportunity to review this information to make sure they're "correctly reflected." The rankings cover deals involving a North American bidder, target, or seller.

The company stated that Kekst came out on top of the value rankings largely because it advised JPMorgan Chase during its $61 billion takeover of Bank One, according to Mergermarket. Sard advised JP Morgan on the same deal.

New York-based Kekst played down its high rankings.

"We by no means regard them as a yardstick for our business," Kekst senior partner Jeffrey Taufield said in an e-mail to PRWeek. "The firm's strong growth in performance in several strategically critical areas and the deepening of the professional skill sets we provide our clients continue to be the focus of our attention."

FD's top spot in the volume rankings stemmed from trans-Atlantic deals, as well as a busy domestic practice, said CEO Declan Kelly. He also said FD's hiring of 35 people in the last nine months has increased the firm's contacts.

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