Exclusive: CEO of Grayling Dubai confirms acquisition of company from Huntsworth

Huntsworth has sold the Dubai arm of its business to Grayling's Middle East and Africa CEO Loretta Ahmed, creating a a new independent agency for the region.

Grayling's Middle East & Africa CEO Loretta Ahmed has acquired the Dubai business from parent company Huntsworth
Grayling's Middle East & Africa CEO Loretta Ahmed has acquired the Dubai business from parent company Huntsworth

Grayling's Middle East and Africa CEO Loretta Ahmed has confirmed to PRWeek Middle East the acquisition of Grayling Dubai from its parent company Huntsworth plc, creating a new independent agency for the region.

Ahmed said the business, which first opened in the region more than 30 years ago, debuting in Dubai, will "retain close ties to the Grayling network as it remains an affiliate partner for its Middle East mandates".

PRWeek revealed in July that a possible sale of the agency's Middle East business was on the cards, after a leaked internal email from Huntsworth CEO Paul Taaffe discussed ongoing discussions with Ahmed about the acquisition.

Ahmed today (11 September) confirmed the rumour, and stated the business would continue to stay under the Grayling brand in the short term. Ahmed said has retained 100 per cent of the ownership structure without any backing.

The Dubai arm of Grayling, she said, has a staff of 35 and an annual turnover of $3m (£2.4m).

She told PRWeek Middle East: "It’s a great way to leave the group – to be able to take the team and business with me, but to stay connected as a global affiliate really offers the best of both worlds.

"I have always considered this business as my own - Huntsworth has always been a hands-off network that empowers its regional CEOs to run their regions relatively autonomously, so nothing changes in the short term, but a new brand will come in time and we are now looking forward to charting our own course."

Ahmed, who has been in the region for over six years, running the Grayling business as CEO of Middle East & Africa, said Grayling Dubai would "continue to offer the same high quality of service that has come to be synonymous with the name across the region".

Speaking on the acquisition, Paul Taaffe, CEO of Huntsworth PLC said: "Loretta has run this business like her own since she took it on in 2013.

"She has had a track record of fostering strong teams and an inclusive culture that works well in the Middle East, allowing her to build and retain a strong portfolio of clients.

"We look forward to continuing to have Loretta and her team as part of our extended family as we co-operate to meet the needs of global clients."

In the email in July, Taaffe had told his team that the sale "will be good for all of us, as it will allow more flexibility locally in a tough market, while Grayling still has access to a great agency in Dubai, which will become a dedicated affiliate. For the rest of us, nothing has changed."

Huntsworth's half-year results in July revealed that the firm has taken a £3.4m write-down from the proposed sale of the business, which generates revenue of around £3m from offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

Huntsworth said Grayling's half-year performance globally - revenue fell 3.2 per cent to £17.1m - was "largely the result of a decline in revenues in the USA for clients terminated last year and an underperformance in the Middle East".

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