Opinion: FD sale is watershed for comms industry

We have seen a landmark week for financial PR, and arguably the industry in general. The sale of Financial Dynamics - the UK's third-largest PR agency - for £139m is more than simply a record-breaking deal.

It is significant because the buyer, FTI, is an economic and management consultancy, rather than a marketing services group.

Not only that, but in his acquisition statement, FTI boss Jack Dunn says he bought FD because it has ‘senior level... trusted adviser relationships with businesses and governments in important financial centres throughout the world'.

In other words, a management consultancy bought a PR agency because of its superior influence; a massive endorsement of what many senior PR figures have been saying for years. The Financial Times, on the front page of its Companies section on Tuesday, wrote: ‘[The deal underlines] the increasing value that corporate clients place on issues such as reputation management.'

Leading analysts - including Teather & Greenwood and Numis - believe this is not a one-off; that other management consultants could snap up City PR shops in the coming months. There are even rumours that McKinsey is looking to break into investor relations.

Financial PR is enjoying a boom, taking a healthy cut of the flood of mergers and acquisitions going through the Square Mile. Ferrovial's recent takeover of BAA, London Stock Exchange's many defences and Mittal's merger with Arcelor have all involved major campaigns. This is also reflected in Chime's announcement this week that Bell Pottinger Corporate & Financial has contributed heavily to its healthy results.

But it is not only within the London EC postcodes that PR is being taken very seriously - it is in board­rooms around the country. The big question is whether the industry can retain this underlying growth and influence through all the hype; through the windfalls being handed out to leading practitioners; and, moreover, through the next economic downturn.
danny.rogers@haynet.com

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