Safeway and ntl deals give boost to financial PR scene

The takeover battle for Safeway launched last month by Morrison buoyed the City PR market and marked the first major bidding war since Vodafone's play for Mannesman three years ago.

Northern supermarket chain Morrisons hired Citigate Dewe Rogerson to handle PR surrounding its cash and share bid for Safeway (PRWeek, 17 January), which sparked a torrent of competitive offers from Sainsbury's, Asda parent Wal-Mart, Arcadia boss Philip Green and US group Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

The deal helped boost CDR's ranking three places to third in January's Deal Watch, compiled exclusively for PRWeek by M&A information database Zephyr.

Safeway's retained agency Brunswick returned to the top slot for the first time since last November, with three deals worth £10.7bn.

The agency also co-handled last month's biggest deal opposite Buchanan Communications - the completion of troubled ntl's £6.6bn restructure.

Brunswick client ntl filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US last May and agreed with bond and shareholders to swap its £6.6bn debt mountain into equity in two reorganised companies: ntl UK and Ireland, which retained Buchanan, and ntl Euroco.

January also saw venture capital group Candover Investments buy Belgium-based Ontex, the European producer of hygiene products, for nearly £670m from the Van Malderen family.

The deal helped secure GCI Financial's top ten appearance, but proved to be one of the agency's last transactions for Candover. The VC this week confirmed it had switched to Tulchan Communications after a two-way pitch.

Weber Shandwick Square Mile and Redleaf Communications follow GCI in sixth and seventh place in the table, produced according to deals involving at least one UK firm.

Redleaf and Square Mile worked either side respectively of UK stockbroker Collins Stewart Holdings' £251m acquisition of the world's number two money broker Tullet.

Square Mile also acted as one of three PR agencies working for biotech client Cambridge Antibody Technology and its £110m takeover of rival Oxford GlycoSciences (OGS).

BMC Communications and The Trout Group worked alongside Square Mile, while Financial Dynamics advised OGS.

Scottish agencies The Big Partnership and Beattie Media entered the league, ranking ninth and tenth, working together for client Clydeport - the group behind the £500m Glasgow Harbour development - which last month sold to property group Peel Ports.

DEAL WATCH JANUARY 2003 RANKING

Ranking Financial PR Company No of Deals Deal Value

pounds m

1 Brunswick 3 10,687

2 Buchanan Communications 7 6,658

3 Citigate Dewe Rogerson 3 4,084

4 Financial Dynamics 9 1,002

5 GCI Financial 2 670

6 Weber Shandwick Square Mile 5 372

7 Redleaf Communications 2 300

8 Bell Pottinger Financial 8 172

9 The Big Partnership 2 170

10 Beattie Media 1 169

Source: Bureau van Dijk - ZEPHYR

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