M: Communications lures PBN's Tom Blackwell to establish Russian arm

M:Communications is targeting growth in the resurgent Russian financial PR market by establishing a new office in Moscow and hiring one of the Russian market's top PROs to run it.

Blackwell: joining M:
Blackwell: joining M:

Tom Blackwell, MD of the Moscow office of market-leading Russian PR firm The PBN Company, will start at M: in mid-May, spearheading its expansion into the country.

He will head a team consisting of a handful of new hires that are yet to be confirmed.

Stuart Leasor, who heads developing markets coverage at the agency, dubbed Blackwell as the 'Wayne Rooney' of financial PR in Russia. He said: 'We were not actively planning to open a Russian office in May, but when the chance came to get the best in the market, it was too good an opportunity to miss.'

Leasor himself joined M: from PBN in late 2008 and worked alongside Blackwell in Russia during the latter's seven years at the firm.

The agency already has a history in the region, having advised some of its highestprofile firms such as ENRC, Polymetal, Rusal and Sibir Energy. The agency wanted to boost its on-the-ground capacity in the region to take advantage of the improved economic prospects.

Blackwell said: 'The near-term goal is to establish a full offering to be able to service the domestic Russian and international markets, whether that is leading on transactions or ongoing financial investors' relations mandates.'

Recent capital markets activity suggests that Russia is emerging from its near-two-year slump that saw its equity markets plunge 75 per cent. At the start of 2008, it was thought up to $40bn of IPOs were on the blocks, but all but a trickle were cancelled as economic conditions deteriorated.

Many of these names are beginning to re-emerge into the market and a number of Russian firms have had discussions with financial PR firms over London listings, including SUEK and Metalloinvest. Reuters now predicts that 'dozens' of Russian firms are lining up floats or secondary share offerings in 2010, either domestically or internationally.

The agency will also look to leverage opportunities from its King Worldwide partners, such as Capital Precision and DF King, which already advise 16 listed Russian firms.

Blackwell added: 'I would expect us to expand relatively quickly, as there is an awful lot of business to be picked up.'

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