Huntsworth owner Chadlington predicts another tough year for PR in Europe

The PR industry will not see consistent growth in Europe until at least next year or even 2016, Huntsworth CEO Peter Chadlington has claimed.

LONDON: The PR industry will not see consistent growth in Europe until at least next year or even 2016, Huntsworth CEO Peter Chadlington has claimed.

Chadlington told PRWeek UK that "every time you go to countries like Spain, Sweden, or others in the region, you can’t help but realize what difficult economic situations they’re in."

"What happens when an economy improves is the first thing that improves with it is advertising – PR follows six to nine months later," he explained. "I don’t think we’ll see real growth in the PR business in general on a consistent basis in Europe until 2015/16."

Huntsworth on Tuesday revealed that it is looking to Asia-Pacific for growth with Chinese partner BlueFocus after a 10.6% drop in pre-tax profits in 2013.

Chadlington said last year’s partnership with BlueFocus enabled Huntsworth, parent company to Grayling and Citigate, to "break out of a dependence on the UK and European economies."

The two firms on Tuesday announced plans to form a joint venture to build their international capabilities, but Chadlington said the agreement would not strictly focus on acquisitions.

"It might mean setting things up from scratch, but as the biggest East-West alliance of any company in the media sector, [BlueFocus CEO] Oscar [Zhao] and I are very keen to develop our global footprint," he said. "It will mean looking for things on the cutting edge of the market."

With Huntsworth Health posting revenue growth of 7.1%, Chadlington said healthcare was, like digital, an area of opportunity for both companies.

Zhao, who is also on the Huntsworth board, added, "I do think there is a great opportunity in the area of healthcare in China. There is lots of heavy pollution in lots of cities and smoking is a problem, plus you have more than 200 million older people."

Alongside "projects to expand the Citigate franchise," Chadlington highlighted a geographical shift at Grayling, the flagship Huntsworth agency where 2013 revenue dropped 6.4% to £78.5 million, or about $132 million.

He pointed to the recent merger of Atomic into Grayling in the US as a sign of a growing presence in North America.

"It is extremely difficult to build revenues on the back of a declining market [in Europe], and we’re seeing a situation where the emphasis of Grayling is moving more to the Americas, which is a growth market for us," he explained. "Such growth, as well as the success we are having with Grayling in the Middle East, will help offset continuing difficulties in Europe."

This story originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK.

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