Global PR M&A accelerates in 2019 as UK activity surges

The first half of 2019 was the busiest for merger-and-acquisition (M&A) deals in the global PR industry since 2016, with more than one third of the deals involving UK PR agencies, new research reveals.

┬ęThinkstockPhotos
┬ęThinkstockPhotos

There were 31 PR M&A deals globaly in the first six months of the year, of which eight were in the UK. The same period last year saw 27 PR M&A deals globally.

In 2018, there were 61 deals across the world and 12 in the UK.

The analysis was carried out by Results International, the global M&A and fundraising advisor to the marketing, technology and healthcare sectors.

The research found there was a wide range of buyers in the first half of the year, for example:

Stagwell Group made a $100m minority investment in MDC Partners, "demonstrating a keen interest in PR capabilities from a non-traditional new media and digital group"

• The independent PR groups continue to strategically acquire in the UK and further afield. For example, UK-based Lansons buying Intermarket in the US

• Ongoing activity in the public markets, demonstrated by SEC’s proposed £4.5m merger with AIM-listed Porta Communications

Archetype (owned by Next Fifteen) buying Rsquared Communication, which highlights "a continued interest in bespoke PR assets"

• The management consultancies are still looking to PR businesses "to fill the gaps in their C-suite offering". For example, Deloitte buying Stitch Communications in H1 2019.

James Kesner, director at Results International, said: "Public relations remains an active sector for M&A with a diverse set of buyers keen to acquire talent and capabilities.

"As PR agencies continue to evolve, buyers look to the sector to widen their offering for clients demanding a joined-up communication strategy. Amid fierce competition from a broader set of buyers, it’s not surprising that 2019 is shaping up to be another busy year for PR M&A."

PR M&A activity announced in the second half of 2019 has included US marketing and PR agency PAN Communications buying the UK's Capella PR; marketing services group Selbey Anderson acquiring Flagship Consulting; and The Ranieri Agency, the UK-headquartered European comms consultancy, undergoing a management buyout with new investment partner Avinity.

Read next:

PRWeek UK Top 150 Consultancies 2019: M&A ramps up as Brexit drags on

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