Freshwater makes AIM debut in bid for funds

Acquisitive PR group Freshwater is to list on London’s junior investment market to raise £4m for further acquisitions.

Howell: planning more acquisitions
Howell: planning more acquisitions

The company will join the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) for a planned first day of trading on 16 July. Chief executive and founder Steve Howell hopes to attract investors on the basis of the PR industry’s strong growth.

Freshwater plans to make acquisitions in the technology and public affairs sectors, and in the North of England.

‘The AIM listing and fund raising is an important step in implementing our strategy of building a much larger business,’ said Howell.

Freshwater started life in South Wales a decade ago and was originally financed by private investors and private equity funds from Finance Wales, loan finance from the Royal Bank of Scotland and cash generated from trading.

Howell said the proliferation of small PR shops made consolidation possible.

‘Market dynamics such as the more complex tendering requirements for new work, whether in the public or private sectors, are encouraging quality businesses to look to be part of a larger entity,’ he said.

Freshwater appeared at 63 in this year’s PRWeek Top 150 UK consultancies list, with a fee income of over £3m – an 87 per cent improvement on last year.

The group has made seven acquisitions in the last three years and employs 87 staff.

It has offices in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, and Southampton.

Clients include John Lewis, Lloyds TSB, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog), and Morphy Richards.

Freshwater’s most significant purchase was when it bought Attenborough Saffron for £2m last year. The brand was launched in 1970 as Attenborough Associates by Barbara Attenborough – mother to brother and sister management team Nick and Claire Attenborough.

Freshwater bought Saffron PR in 2004 (PRWeek, 29 November 2003).

In March the John Lewis Partnership signed up Freshwater for a campaign of community relations around upcoming UK store openings run out of several of the Freshwater regional offices (PRWeek, 29 March). The agency’s initial focus will be the relocation of John Lewis’ Cambridge store to a bigger site, due inNovember.

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