Newly merged WPP alliance tops Mergermarket H1 M&A adviser ranking

The recently merged WPP alliance of Finsbury, The Glover Park Group and Hering Schuppener has topped the new Mergermarket table that ranks PR agencies by the value of M&A deals they handled globally in the first half of 2020.

(Pic credit: Wutthichai Luemuang/EyeEm/Getty Images)
(Pic credit: Wutthichai Luemuang/EyeEm/Getty Images)

The firms managed deals worth $86.6bn, up eight per cent on the same period in 2019.

The three WPP consultancies have been jointly ranked since 2017 as Finsbury Hering Schuppener GPG, but are becoming a single firm following the announcement of their merger earlier this month; Finsbury Glover Hering said it will formally launch in early 2021.

The agency that the WPP alliance overtook at the summit for H1, Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher, handled deals worth $83.4bn in the first half of 2020. That's a fall of 77.8 per cent on the same period last year.

There were big declines in the value of deals handled by other agencies near the top of the ranking, including Brunswick (-77 per cent), Sard Verbinnen & Co (-86.2 per cent) and Kekst CNC (-86.6 per cent), as the coronavirus and other factors disrupted the global M&A market.

One notable climber in the table was Italian agency Community Group, which rose from 26th to sixth as the value of deals it handled grew 228.7 per cent to $27bn.

Discussing its place at the top of the table, Finsbury Glover Hering pointed to notable transactions it oversaw during the period, including the ongoing acquisition of Grubhub by Just Eat Takeaway.com; the announced merger of Virgin Media with Telefónica's British O2 business; and the sale of Deutsche Glasfaser to EQT Partners and OMERS Infrastructure.

Faeth Birch, managing partner at Finsbury Glover Hering, said: "We are pleased we have been able to work with clients to get deals done in this challenging time, leveraging our strengths in integrated M&A campaigns, across politics and regulation, owned and earned media and employee engagement. Our performance advising on global multi-market deals and the resulting ranking illustrates the collective strength of our professionals across the world. As Finsbury Glover Hering comes together as one firm, we will be able to leverage this expertise and work together even more closely to deliver outstanding service to our clients.”

Meanwhile, Sard Verbinnen & Co replaced Kekst CNC at the top of the table that looks at volume of M&A deals handled. The former oversaw 75 deals in H1, down 51 on the first half of last year; the latter handled 69 deals, 58 fewer than H1 2019.

Again, there is a notable decline from the same period last year for other high-ranking agencies in this table.

Third-placed Brunswick handled 60 deals (H1 2019: 96); fourth-placed Finsbury Hering Schuppener GPG oversaw 56 (H1 2019: 102); and fifth-placed Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher looked after 55 transactions (H1 2019: 82).

As PRWeek previously reported, Sard Verbinnen held its position as the agency that handled the most M&A deals globally in the 2019 full year.

Regional breakdowns

Finsbury Hering Schuppener GPG topped the tables by value of M&A deals in the US, where Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher fell from first to fourth place. Sard Verbinnen & Co was second in that table, and also topped the table for deals by volume in the US.

The WPP alliance also topped the Europe table by value of M&A deals, as Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher moved from 10th to second place and last year's first-placed agency, Sard Verbinnen & Co, moved to sixth. However, Finsbury Hering Schuppener GPG fell from first to second in the table by volume of deals in Europe – it swapped places with Brunswick at the top.

In the UK, Joele Frank Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher moved from seventh to first in the rankings of M&A deals handled by value, knocking Brunswick off the top spot. However, the latter topped the table by the number of deals handled, ahead of Maitland AMO and FTI Consulting respectively.

There's a new entry at the top of the deals-by-value table for Asia Pacific (excluding Japan): Christensen Investor Relations, which pipped Sard Verbinnen & Co to the position. The top three in the deals-by-volume table for the region were unchanged on H1 2019, with Sard Verbinnen & Co, FTI Consulting and Brunswick respectively leading the rankings.

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