Acquisition on cards as Bell eyes ad firms

Lowe Bell parent company Chime Communications is planning to move into advertising with the acquisition of a major UK independent.

Lowe Bell parent company Chime Communications is planning to move

into advertising with the acquisition of a major UK independent.



It is thought the company is talking to at least one ad agency within

the top 30 as part of an ambitious plan to at least double the size of

the company.



Bell has previously ruled out a deal with M&C Saatchi - the largest

UK-based independent. Others within the top 30 are: Bartle Bogle

Hegarty; HHCL and Partners; BDH Advertising and Butler Lutos Sutton

Wilkinson.



The news comes at a time of feverish corporate activity for Lowe Bell

which is also understood to be taking a small stake in US investor

relations firm the Torrenzano Group.



Alan Capper, former chairman of the Rowland Company, who has acted as

Lowe Bell’s representative in the US since 1995, confirmed that

arrangement had ended. ’Torrenzano will be the flag carrier for Lowe

Bell in the US from now on,’ he told PR Week.



Other areas in which it is interested in expanding in the UK include

sports and entertainment public relations and strategic consultancy.



Chairman Sir Tim Bell revealed in March that he was ’actively looking to

acquire another well-known brand’ and indicated he would look outside

the PR industry. He declined to comment on his acquisition plans when

approached this week.



Buying a major ad agency would allow Bell to kill several birds with one

stone. It would extend the range of services the group can offer, add to

its senior management and provide another focus for attention besides

Bell himself



A major acquisition could offer a way out of the company’s disappointing

share performance. Market watchers suggest Chime needs to at least

double its market capitalisation of pounds 22 million, if it is to gain

a stronger following. The higher rating of advertising agency stocks

compared to PR agencies is an added attraction.



Meanwhile Lowe Bell has dealt a blow to the prospects of a deal with its

long-time Brussels associate, Adamson Associates, by signing up with

independent public affairs group, European Public Policy Advisers.



Analysis, p9.



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