OPINION: M:Comms set for a happy new year

A report by the British Venture Capital Association last year highlighted how much money the City made on the back of private equity and singled out the PR industry in particular.

Private equity houses do not spend much on themselves, but they were behind many of the biggest takeovers last year and nothing opens the chequebook faster than an executive fighting to save his job.

By common consent there will be fewer and smaller private equity deals this year because credit is tighter. It follows that several City PR firms will also see less business. Recessions in the City are rare but when they come they usually thin out the ranks of City PR firms. This time is unlikely to be different.

Some in the industry are fatalist about this - thinking they have salted away enough in the good times to tide them through the downturns. Others, notably M: Communications, the agency of Nick Miles and Hugh Morrison, had the foresight to develop a different business model, one not so exclusively dependent on the UK stock market and domestic bids and deals.

Having built up FD in the 1990s, Miles and Morrison have seen their share of UK downturns. They anticipated London's appeal was rapidly becoming global and that growing numbers of large foreign businesses would want to access the international capital markets.

But they also understood that if these big international companies were to be accepted by the international financial community, they would have to be prepared to explain in great detail what they did and how they did it.

They were businesses with ambition, but also almost by definition they were businesses with the most complex communications issues to resolve, the money to spend resolving them and a willingness to pay retainers rather than fees per project. What more could a PR consultant want?

The payoff has been remarkable. Though it is only just five years old, M: Communications turnover now tops £10m and the client list includes more than 40 of the Euro 300 companies. Whatever happens elsewhere, 2008 promises to be prosperous for Miles and Morrison.

Anthony Hilton is City commentator on London’s Evening Standard.

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