Huntsworth's '09 PR revenues decline 6%

LONDON: Huntsworth, a holding company for PR and health marketing firms that underwent significant restructuring last year, reported $170.6 million* in 2009 PR revenues, about a 6% decline from the $182.3 million the discipline earned in 2008.

LONDON: Huntsworth, a holding company for PR and health marketing firms that underwent significant restructuring last year, reported $170.6 million* in 2009 PR revenues, about a 6% decline from the $182.3 million the discipline earned in 2008. Organic PR revenues declined 9%.

PR operating profit was $34.2 million, a 20% margin, slightly down from $38.3 million and a 21% margin in 2008. PR makes up 73% of Huntsworth's earnings.

Companywide, Huntsworth reported total 2009 revenues of $241.1 million, a less than 2% decline from 2008 figures. Organic growth declined 4.7%. Loss for the year was $13.2 million compared to a profit of $15.5 million in 2008. Restructuring and branding cash costs totaled more than $13 million last year, including severance, the company noted.

Last year, Huntsworth slimmed its 26 brands down to four, three of which are PR firms. Among the remaining brands, Grayling, a generalist PR network, comprises of about 51% of the group's revenues; Citigate, a financial and corporate communications group, comprises of 15%; Red, a consumer agency, represents about 7%; and Hunstworth Health, specializing in medical communications and marketing, represented 27% of the group's revenues. The holding company made the restructuring to compete for larger, multinational accounts.  

Starting in 2010, Huntsworth will report revenue figures for each of the four brands, said COO Sally Withey.

When asked if the company plans to name a US-based head of PR, Withey told PRWeek the company has “no plans to at the moment. We have our four brands and each has a chief executive and that's how we'll manage it.”

Currently, Huntsworth's primary presence in the US is in public affairs and healthcare. In December, Huntsworth acquired Dutko Worldwide, a Washington-based public affairs firm for $33.6 million. Public affairs and corporate communications, followed by consumer and b-to-b make up the bulk of the group's activity as a whole. Pharmaceutical and financial services are the top sectors Huntsworth consults in.

“Dutko is our largest non-healthcare agency in the US,” Withey said. “At the current time, Grayling doesn't have much scale in the US outside of public affairs… We don't have any acquisitions planned or imminent, but if an opportunity [to expand] comes our way, we'll always consider it.”

In its financial results, the company reports that Grayling is well-positioned to compete against PR firms owned by advertising agencies, as well as independents like Edelman.

Huntsworth acquired aggressively in the last year. In addition to Dutko, the Huntsworth Health bought Tonic Life Communications and Grayling bought Connecting Point Communications and invested in Atomic PR, among other acquisitions. Michael Birkin, former Asia Pacific chairman and CEO at Omnicom, became an independent director on Huntsworth's board. 

Huntsworth Health reported revenues of $70.6, up 6.5% from 2008. Its operating profit is $14.8 million.

“I think the future is looking good,” Withey said. “Our primary concern is to deliver top-line growth and we're confident we can do that organically.”

The group employs just under 1,700 people.

*Figures were converted from the British Pound to the US Dollar using Yahoo's Currency Converter.

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