The French are coming: Hopscotch MD on Sopexa alliance, acquisitions and the 'French DNA'

The proposed "alliance" between French PR firms Hopscotch and Sopexa will enable it to compete with the big "Anglo-Saxon" networks for global accounts, says Hopscotch MD Frederic Bedin, who says he is also eyeing acquisitions across the world.

Alliance: French PR groups come together
Alliance: French PR groups come together

Bedin said the coming together of the PR firms plus events business Comexposium, announced yesterday, will create a business with a turnover of around 250m ($277m, £210m), employing around 800 people from 60 offices in 28 countries.

This is likely to put the new entity in the top 10 global agencies by revenue, according to PRWeek’s Global Agency Business Report. However, it will still be some way behind fellow French PR network MSLGroup, which was ranked fifth in the most recent report (although that agency has part of its origins in the US, despite being now owned by French holding company Publicis).

The deal will see Hopscotch and Comexposium each take a one-third stake in Sopexa, although the investment has not been disclosed.

Asked if the alliance would make it easier to compete with large agencies such as Edelman, Weber Shandwick and Hill+Knowlton, Bedin told PRWeek: "Of course. We already compete with them in the French market – of course we always win – and sometimes in the European market. But now the idea is to compete with them for global clients.

"[Clients] will have a real choice between one of those networks – very well known, very respectable networks – and us. We’ll be a real alternative with a different point of view, a different DNA, different languages spoken."

Bedin said there would be no conflict of clients between Hopscotch, which employs 550 people in Paris, and Sopexa, which has an existing network in multiple countries and a specialism in food, lifestyle and luxury PR. He said the Sopexa network would be a "huge added value" for Hopscotch’s clients, which include global businesses such as Microsoft, Nissan and GlaxoSmithKline.

The timing of the deal had "no relationship" to the EU referendum in the UK, said Bedin, linking it instead to Sopexa’s growing international base and the fact the French government is looking for privately owned networks to promote French products in other countries.

"We have been speaking for 10 years now about this deal but I will say now all the planets are aligned to make it happen.

"Sopexa now has clients from Mexico, from Italy, from Greece. Foreign clients represent more than one-third of Sopexa turnover now so it’s time to let Sopexa swim by itself."

Bedin said it was "too early" to discuss growth plans in detail, but he is keen to make acquisitions.

"We will be looking for acquisitions in the US I’m sure, we will be looking for acquisitions in Asia I’m sure, we will be looking in Africa – we do many things in Africa through our hub in Casablanca. Africa is an extraordinary new frontier for companies, for our clients, so it’s very exciting."

He added: "It’s possible to acquire some companies with specific skills in the Middle East and Asia."

The negotiation process between the relevant parties in the deal is expected to end on 29 September. Bedin said the timescale was linked to regulatory requirements, but he was confident the proposal would be accepted. "The deal is almost done," Bedin stated.

Hopscotch, which is listed on the Paris Stock Exchange, was ranked number 33 in PRWeek’s Global Agency Business Report 2015, after global revenue fell 16 per cent in the year.

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