FD brings in Middle East heavyweight David King as chairman

FD has brought in an industry heavy-hitter to chair its business in the Gulf region as the agency continues to focus on the Middle East despite the recession.

David King and John Hobday: FD's chairman and MD Gulf region
David King and John Hobday: FD's chairman and MD Gulf region

Former HSBC director David King has joined the agency as chairman, Gulf Region. King has worked in the region since 2003, having led the Dubai Financial Services Authority. He then joined HSBC where he was MD, business development for global banking in the MENA region.

King, who between 1989 and 2001 was CEO of the London Metal Exchange in the City of London, will work closely with John Hobday, FD's regional MD.

The move is part of a wider expansion for the agency in the region - it is in the process of opening a new office in Qatar along with its presence in the UAE and Bahrain.

The expansion is in stark contrast to Buchanan Communications, which this month pulled out of its Middle East operation, blaming the tough economic conditions in the region.

At the time Buchanan partner Tim Anderson said the Middle East economy had 'absolutely nose-dived' and budgets were being 'slashed' so opportunities for financial PR were 'very limited'.

But Charles Watson, CEO of FD, insisted the picture for financial comms in the region was not so grim. He said: 'In the Gulf we are being overwhelmed with new opportunity. The Dubai economy has hit a wall, but that means there is a wide range of corporates with an absolute web of comms issues that have to be urgently addressed.'

Brunswick retains a significant financial comms operation in the Middle East, as do Kreab Gavin Anderson, Citigate Dewe Rogerson, Weber Shandwick, Capital MS&L and others. Previous outsider Finsbury is also stepping up its presence in the area, having won the retained financial comms brief for Dubai itself in March this year.

Steffan Williams, joint MD of Capital MS&L, acknowledged economic conditions were tough in the Middle East, but said there was a need for comms expertise outside of the more commoditised financial reporting work.

He said: 'The more UK-style traditional calendar financial PR is structurally unsuited to that market. The work that is more valued is providing thoughtful counsel to a CEO about reputational issues, in particular for those companies in the region that want to become a brand leader.'

How I see it

Stuart Leasor, Partner, M: Communications

Economic conditions in the Middle East are tough, but business is still out there - it is just a question of ferreting it out. The doom and gloom written about the death of Dubai is exaggerated.

Last year a lot of foreign capital invested in the region disappeared and went back home. That will eventually come back - a senior banker we spoke to last week said he had eight major transactions in fruition with a total book value of US$30bn.

There are not many markets in the world that can say they are booming, but there are still opportunities out there and we will certainly not be scaling back.

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