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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Bell Pottinger mulls sale amid crippling South Africa scandal

Loses clients after it was thrown out of a PR industry body for running a campaign that was said to have inflamed racial tensions

The building containing the London headquarters of the PR company Bell Pottinger. The firm may be sold. Toby Melville/Reuters
The building containing the London headquarters of the PR company Bell Pottinger. The firm may be sold. Toby Melville/Reuters

The British PR agency Bell Pottinger said on Wednesday it had hired the accountancy firm BDO to advise on a possible sale after it lost business for running a racially-charged campaign in South Africa, leaving its future increasingly uncertain.

The banking giant HSBC cut ties with Bell Pottinger and the PR agency’s second-biggest shareholder walked away on Tuesday after it was thrown out of an industry body for running a campaign that the political opposition said had inflamed racial tensions.

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“I can confirm that we have appointed BDO to look at all options for the business including a possible sale,” a spokesman for Bell Pottinger said.

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, had complained to the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) that Bell Pottinger’s campaign was trying to “divide and conquer” the South African public in order to keep the president Jacob Zuma and his party in power.

The PRCA expelled Bell Pottinger for a minimum of five years. The PR firm, founded in 1987, said it accepted there were lessons to be learned, but disputed the basis on which the ruling was made.