Huntsworth Group buys Avenue HKM for £1.37m

Voracious marcoms group Huntsworth has made a second pharmaceutical sector acquisition in less than two months, having snapped up loss-making medical education and PR agency Avenue HKM from Blackwell Science.

Huntsworth has splashed out £1.37m upfront, with a deferred consideration of £250,000 based on revenue levels over the year ahead.

Avenue CEO Joanna Marchant now reports to Huntsworth healthcare CEO David Rowley, who joins Avenue’s board.

Avenue associate director Dr Jennifer Garratt becomes a director and financial controller Tara Stimpson is finance director. Both also join the Avenue board.

Last year Avenue recorded pre-tax losses of £724,000; its staff numbers have fallen from 53 two years ago to 37.

But it boasts clients such as GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer Consumer Health, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Avenue client wins this year have included a contract to promote Merck Pharmaceuticals’ colon cancer drug Erbitux (PRWeek, 23 July) and a deal to promote French firm Servier’s heart-disease treatment Coversyl (PRWeek 28 May).

Rowley said: ‘Avenue lost three significant accounts at the start of 2003 and there were cut-backs… but in the past six to eight months it has made a profit.’

Marchant said: ‘We can now offer clients a broader proposition through the Huntsworth group.’

Avenue was created in January 2000 following the merger of Bullet Communications and Blackwell Healthcare Communications – both formerly owned by Blackwell Publishing.

Of Huntsworth’s upfront payment for Avenue, £776,600 is in cash, with the rest funded by a share issue.

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