x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Asda'a has acquisitions in mind

The public relations firm Asda'a Burson-Marsteller, which is part of Martin Sorrell's WPP Group, is looking at acquisitions in North Africa and Iraq.

Sunil John, the chief executive of Asda'a. Jeff Topping/The National
Sunil John, the chief executive of Asda'a. Jeff Topping/The National

Asda'a Burson-Marsteller, a Dubai public relations company owned by the WPP Group, says it is aiming for acquisitions in North Africa and Iraq.

Asda'a, which claims to be the largest PR company in the Middle East, said it hoped to complete one or more deals by the end of this year.

The firm is part of the Menacom Group, based in Dubai, which is majority owned by WPP, a global communications firm headed by Sir Martin Sorrell, a multimillionaire British businessman.

Asda'a has 11 wholly owned offices and eight affiliate offices in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan, according to its website. Its clients include Emaar, Etisalat and Emirates NBD.

Sunil John, the chief executive of Asda'a, said the company was in talks to further expand its operations in the region.

"We have initiated discussions in North Africa as well as in Iraq in the last couple of months," he said. "We think there is a huge growth opportunity here. And we think that this is the right time to be able to look at these markets."

Mr John declined to mention which companies Asda'a was pursuing, but said he hoped to complete at least one deal "towards the end of the year".

He added that the post-revolution markets of North Africa posed a growth opportunity for the regional PR industry.

"The North African belt will probably take a bit of time to come to fruition in terms of the communications industry. But I think there's a huge opportunity there," Mr John said.

"It's a good time to buy, because there's good value. And I think [if] we're able to build a good, strong offering for those markets, by the time the market turns around in 2013, we'll be the first off the block," he added.

Rival PR companies said there were opportunities in North Africa and countries such as Iraq, but some warned that had to be measured against the risk of entering such volatile markets.

Dave Robinson, the regional president and chief executive of the PR firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies, which is also part of WPP, said his firm was already "well established" in North Africa.

"In post regime-change markets there's a certain opportunity, but it has to be measured against risk," Mr Robinson said. He added that Iraq's PR industry had potential, but said the cost of entry was high. "Iraq has a certain amount of opportunity but it's early days yet."

Guy Taylor, the chief executive of the PR firm Grayling in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific region, said the Arab Spring posed an opportunity for the industry as a whole. This was partly due to the changing dialogue between regional governments and citizens, he said.

"This comes about through people realising they actually have a voice, and governments realising that they have to speak to people," Mr Taylor said.



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