Bite swings back to profitability

Next Fifteen said Tuesday that agency subsidiary Bite returned to profitability during the five-month period ending December 31, 2013.

LONDON: Next Fifteen said Tuesday that agency subsidiary Bite returned to profitability during the five-month period ending December 31, 2013.

The holding company, which owns and operates Text100, M Booth, Bite, The OutCast Agency, Beyond, and 463 Communications, among others, attributed a strong start to the financial year to double-digit organic growth in North America.

Next Fifteen CEO Tim Dyson said his goal for Bite is to continue to make progress “towards being a digital marketing agency, not just a traditional public relations business.”

He added that the firm has used a “very back-to-basics” approach, focusing on doing a few things well rather than a lot of things averagely.

“We're not just pitching everything that comes to us,” explained Dyson. “We're being selective about who we actually take on as a client, we're being very careful about who works for the organization, and we're very keen to invest in the people we do have working within the organization to make sure they have all of the right skills.”

Next Fifteen also said in an investor statement that the rest of the group is trading in line with management expectations despite the British pound being stronger than the US dollar and the Euro.

Last year, the London-based umbrella group saw a 65% drop in pre-tax profit in the fiscal year ending July 31 to about $3.37 million, compared with FY 2012. The holding company attributed most of its profit decline to challenges at Bite and “accounting issues in two of its 12 offices.”

In October 2012, Next Fifteen delayed its annual financial results due to the discovery of a fraud in Bite's San Francisco office that it said was orchestrated “by a long-standing member of the finance team in a trusted position.” As a result, the company wrote off $2.8 million in cash stolen at that time, as well as $200,000 in its 2013 fiscal year.

Shortly after the fraud case surfaced, group finance director David Dewhurst stepped down from his role after 14 years at the company. Next Fifteen brought on former Bell Pottinger and 19 Entertainment finance chief Peter Harries as interim CFO as it looks for a permanent replacement for Dewhurst.

Next Fifteen also said on Tuesday that chairman Richard Eyre purchased 28,781 ordinary shares in London, bringing his total to 103,910, or about 0.17% of the company's issued share capital. Dyson also received 150,000 ordinary shares on Tuesday and sold nearly 78,000 shares. He has a total of more than 5 million shares of the group, which represents nearly 8.4% of its issued share capital.

Bite has seen a number of leadership changes in the last 18 months. Former CEO Clive Armitage stepped down from his role at the end of 2012 to start a digital marketing firm under Next Fifteen.

Last June, Andy Cunningham, who succeeded Armitage as CEO, left the firm to focus on SeriesC, the marketing consultancy she founded in 2012.

Bite also saw the departures of Jessica Rowntree, a director in London, and San Francisco SVP Bill Danon in 2013. Last September, Bite appointed Sean Mills, former SVP in Edelman's New York technology practice, as the agency's regional director in North America.

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