Chime sale expected in Q4 as first-half profits fall against 'tough' World Cup comparatives

Chime Communications says it expects its acquisition by a consortium of WPP and private equity firm Providence to complete in the fourth quarter of this year, as it reports a dip in profit for the first half of 2015.

Chime CEO Christopher Satterthwaite: Pleased with performance in the first half of the year
Chime CEO Christopher Satterthwaite: Pleased with performance in the first half of the year

Adjusted operating profit fell 16 per cent on a like-for-like basis to £15.2m. Chime cited a "tough half-year comparative", as operating profit in the first half of 2014 was "enhanced" by the football World Cup in Brazil. Like-for-like headline operating income rose four per cent to £102.6m.

Operating profit margin fell from 18.1 per cent to 14.8 per cent. Chime pointed to the strong performance of its Sport and Entertainment arm in the first half of 2014 and £1m of restructuring costs incurred in the most recent half-year.

Adjusted operating profit in Sport and Entertainment, which now includes PR agency Good Relations after the restructure announced in March, fell 34 per cent on a like-for-like basis to £7m. Chime said Good Relations "continued to make good progress" in the period.

Like-for-like headline operating income in the division fell six per cent, and operating profit margin fell from 24.1 per cent to 16.9 per cent.

Chime said: "The second half of 2015 will include the 2015 Rugby World Cup in the UK for which we are handling Land Rover's sponsorships and managing 82 players who are expected to play for the eight top world ranked countries. We are also winning further contracts for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, particularly through our branding business ICON and our hospitality business iLUKA."

New business wins by the division in the year so far include Bose, CIMA, Epson, Haas F1 Racing Team, Hisense, Longines Digital, Manchester City FC, PGA of America, Samsung, Singapore Airlines, The European Tour, Unilever Simple, Wrangler and World Rugby Sevens.

Chime said its Advertising and Marketing Services division, which now includes PR agencies Team Spirit and Harvard, "continued its success of recent years with strong growth and impressive new business wins".

Adjusted operating profit in the division grew 15 per cent to £5.9m on a like-for-like basis. Like-for-like adjusted operating income increased 10 per cent to £45.3m. Wins in 2015 include Avon, Barratt Developments, Bibbys, BILD, Fitness First, Formula E, Nationwide, Prudential, SsangYong Motor, The Children's Society and World Vision.

Like-for-like adjusted operating profit in Chime’s Healthcare Communications arm, which includes the Open Health comms agency, increased six per cent to £1.5m. Adjusted operating income rose 16 per cent on a like-for-like basis to £10.9m.

Chime said: "The first half of 2015 saw further successful consolidation and integration with the division continuing to focus on market access and patient data. The Open Health agencies are increasingly working as one integrated business providing better services to clients, which should lead to an improved margin."

New business wins in the division in 2015 include Biogen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, GSK, Lundbeck, Novartis and Sanofi.

Despite the dip in profits overall at Chime, the company reported a jump in average fee per client in the first half of 2015, to £83,000 against £73,000 in the same period last year. The group said 307 clients paid it more than £50,000 in the first half of 2015 compared with 292 in the first half of 2014.

Chime CEO Christopher Satterthwaite said: "We are pleased with the group's performance in the first half of the year.

"Sport and Entertainment was lower than the previous period in 2014, which saw our involvement in the FIFA World Cup and Winter Olympics. The second half of the year will see a benefit from the timing of sports events including the UK Rugby World Cup and Ashes Series, as well as the continuing strong performances of our marketing services businesses: VCCP, Open Health, CIE and the Chime Specialist Group."

Chime maintained an interim dividend of 2.53p. Earnings per share fell from 11.6p to 10.3p against the same period last year.

Earlier this month, Chime announced that an agreement had been reached to sell the business to a consortium of WPP and private equity group Providence for £374m.

Chime said this morning that completion of the deal was "expected in the fourth quarter of 2015".

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