Private equity report: agencies to cash in

PR agencies look set for a massive income boost from private equity firms after a major report into the sector’s openness.

The Walker Report, comm­issioned in March by the British Venture Capital Association (BVCA) and published this week, calls for higher levels of disclosure from private equity houses.

It demands they publish annual reports on ‘large’ portfolio companies and communicate both outwardly and inwardly any changes to said companies.

BVCA chairman Simon Walker said City agencies could ‘rightly assume’ more work would now be heading their way. He also predicted that work would need to be done on private equity firm websites to improve communications.

One senior figure in the private equity industry said firms were already ‘gearing up to giving around 20 per cent more business to PR agencies’.

The extra resource will be needed for publishing results, and communicating with the public and employees changes made within the companies in a private equ­ity portfolio.

The Walker Report concluded that ‘large’ companies – those with more than 1,000 staff and that do more than 50 per cent of their business in the UK – were of ‘public interest’ and would therefore be subject to greater reporting responsibilities.

Many of the agencies to which PRWeek spoke said they were ‘in talks’ with the private equity firms that ret­ained them about the impact of the Walker Report.

‘This will be a big push forward in the way private equity thinks about PR,’ said Permira director of comms Chris Davison. ‘Greater res­ource will be needed.’

Cubitt Consulting foun­der Simon Brocklebank-Fowler said private equity had gone some way to imp­roving its comms output in the past couple of years: ‘There has been an explosion of fees already. Private equity firms have realised that in order to be att­ractive they needed more recognition. They are now spending two to three times what they were [on PR] than five years ago.’

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