EDITORIAL: Safeway bids give boost to City PROs

After more than a year of doom and gloom in the City PR sector, 2003 got off to a welcome start as Sir Ken Morrison kick-started what is likely to be the lengthiest, most hotly contested and regulated deal of the year.

The growing retail sector line-up at Safeway's checkout is exactly what the City PR sector has been waiting for.

Last year was one of the worst for almost a decade for the financial PR sector. There has been an absolute dearth of decent deals. When it came to IPOs, the few companies that were brave enough to come to the market performed so badly that others have been put off in droves.

There's been a slight increase in the amount of work relating to rights issues, and unlike investment banks, financial PROs have at least had retainer fees for calendar work to fall back on, but those fees rarely top £100,000.

The race for Safeway, however, is likely to inject aggregate fees of £2m into the sector, with the agencies involved - Finsbury, Brunswick, Bell Pottinger and Citigate Dewe Rogerson - netting at least £500,000 a piece. Success fees could push them even higher up to the £1m mark.

All the industry needs now is for the Sainsbury and Wal-Mart bids to be referred to the Competition Commission and the fees for regulatory work will really help to put a smile back on the face of City PROs. It's almost like the good old days.

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