College Group expands into Middle East

DUBAI: College Group has established its first Middle Eastern business with the acquisition of M:Communications' former Dubai-based business.

DUBAI: College Group has established its first Middle Eastern business with the acquisition of M:Communications' former Dubai-based business.

The firm has named Nicholas Lunt and Samantha Bartel Al Khalaf managing partners. They will join College Group along with the former M: team that has been operating out of the United Arab Emirates and across the Middle East region since 2008.

College Hill also pledged to expand its Middle East operation by opening offices in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as well as satellite offices in Doha, Qatar, and Manama, Bahrain.

The move marks a further international expansion of the group following the sale of a majority stake to private equity firm Vitruvian Partners in October 2011.

Richard Nichols, chief executive of College Group, called the investment “an important milestone in College Group's international expansion strategy.”

“The Middle East is a thriving but challenging business center with many opportunities, and so it is vital that we can deliver a strong integrated offering on the ground that is second to none,” he added. “Today's news reflects our commitment to this and our ongoing plans for further international growth in key global financial and business markets.”

“We're establishing the company's regional presence at a time of great growth and opportunity in the Middle East. The UAE is beginning to fulfill its potential as one of the world's key centers of trade and commerce,” said Lunt, who has also previously held senior posts at Weber Shandwick and Ogilvy Public Relations.

Lunt, who joined M:Communications in 2009, has also previously served as communications adviser to the prime minister's office in Iraq, NATO chief civilian spokesman in Kabul, various government ministers in Afghanistan, and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Since its private equity investment, College Group has acquired Russia and CIS investor relations specialist Shared ValueUK financial PR business Merlin Financial Communications, and German-based Haubrok Investor Relations.

A number of former divisions of the wound-down M:Communications have been spun into separate entities in recent months, including its former Russian business, which became EM in July.

This story originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK.

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