Analysis from marcoms and technology M&A advisor Results International found there were 28 deals between July and September, the period after the EU Referendum on 23 June. There were 23 deals in Q3 2015.
There were more deals in the third quarter of 2016 than in the first (20) and second (16) quarters of this year, the research found.
In the UK, there were six acquisitions in Q3, leaving the UK in second place behind the US and keeping deal volumes in line with 2015 levels. "It suggests that concerns over Brexit have yet to have any meaningful impact on the market," Results International said.
One quarter of the deals in Q3 involved the acquisition of specialist PR agencies in sectors such as healthcare, technology and retail.
These included: Next Fifteen Communications purchasing Pinnacle Marketing Communications, the UK-based tech PR and digital marketing specialist; French PR groups Hopscotch and Comexposium buying minority stakes in food and lifestyle PR shop Sopexa; and Four Communications buying Packer Forbes, which specialises in healthcare PR.
Results International managing partner Keith Hunt said: "The recent past has seen a lot of content and social media businesses encroaching on PR’s space and the growing volume of M&A highlights that PR is pushing back. There are still some highly attractive acquisition targets in the sector and a lot of the bigger networks are looking to kick-start their presence in PR and reinvent themselves.
"Specialist agencies continue to rank among the most appealing prospects for larger groups who already have their more generalist PR requirements covered. Agencies with strong client lists and expertise in sectors like tech and healthcare have become increasingly sought after."
There were two ‘repeat acquirers’ of PR agencies in the first three quarters of the year: Four Communications and Santy Integrated.
However, over the seven quarters since the beginning of 2015, multiple acquirers in the PR sector number 15 in total. Teneo Holdings, Finn Partners and Four Communications made four acquisitions each, followed by Daniel J. Edelman and WPP on three.
Hunt said: "The past two years have seen an increasing level of interest in PR acquisitions, both from groups in the sector and broader marcoms networks. The ability to deliver great content, both offline and via digital, has always been a strength of the public relations industry and is becoming an increasingly critical part of the overall marcoms experience."