Llorente & Cuenca eyes Cuban office

Spanish-owned agency Llorente & Cuenca plans to open an office in Cuba following its recent €6.4m ($7.1m, £4.6m) capital injection, president and founding partner José Antonio Llorente has told PRWeek.

Llorente & Cuenca: Agency plans to grow to around 500 employees by 2016
Llorente & Cuenca: Agency plans to grow to around 500 employees by 2016

The agency currently has offices in 13 countries, and is due to open in Miami next month as part of its expansion programme.

Llorente said: "We are considering Cuba as a new, potential market with high interest. Probably we will soon be opening an office, if it’s possible. The government has to authorise that you provide a specific service in the island."

The firm also has affiliate relationships with existing agencies in Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, but Llorente said: "In Cuba it’s not possible to find an affiliate because frankly the industry does not exist, so whatever you plan to do in Cuba has to be set up from zero."

Llorente & Cuenca is among a number of agencies looking to enter Cuba following a thawing of relations with the US, which is set to end its five-decade-old embargo on the communist country.

Llorente said its acquisition plan, which follows the multi-million-Euro investment from French private equity firm MBO Partenaires announced last month, would focus on reinforcing its presence in Latin America, which currently accounts for 75 per cent of the business. He highlighted Brazil and Mexico as targets.

"We plan to make some acquisitions in Spain and Portugal too," he added.

Digital expertise will be a particular focus for acquisitions. "Digital is clearly one of the areas we are more interested in," Llorente stated.

"One of the reasons for our growth is our ability to integrate the digital work into the more traditional practice areas like public affairs and financial comms. Our idea is that in the world of today, everything is digital. It’s clearly a trend we have to be with and we will be very sensitive about the opportunities we can access if they have a strong digital component."

Affiliates will not be the focus for expansion, unless it is necessary as "a first step" in a new market, Llorente said.

MBO Partenaires secured a 22 per cent stake in the business following its investment. Llorente continues to hold 51 per cent of the capital and the remaining partners also kept their original stakes.

Llorente & Cuenca increased global revenues 12.5 per cent to $27.7m (£17.9m) in 2014. The agency employs more than 350 people globally and plans to grow to almost 500 by 2016. Its major clients include McDonald's, Uber, Microsoft, L'Oreal and Campofrio.

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