BlueFo­cus aims to ac­quire Cana­dian company

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG RU in Bei­ing wan­gru@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com.cn

China’s lead­ing mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing company is in talks to ac­quire a multi­na­tional Cana­dian ad­ver­tis­ing company.

The Beijing-based BlueFo­cus Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Group con­firmed on Nov 20 that it’s en­gaged in talks to ac­quire Vi­sion7 In­ter­na­tional, a Que­bec City- based company. BlueFo­cus, how­ever, em­pha­sized that the two com­pa­nies have not reached nor signed any agree­ments on the deal. BlueFo­cus said there re­main uncer­tain­ties and the pro­posed ac­qui­si­tion car­ries risks to stock in­vestors.

Stock trad­ing of BlueFo­cus was sus­pended on Nov 20 and re­opened the next day.

Over­seas me­dia re­ported that the pur­chase price might reach $220 mil­lion, but BlueFo­cus de­clared that fig­ure was “not ac­cu­rate”. Vi­sion7 In­ter­na­tional CEO Brett Marc­hand de­clined com­ment.

Vi­sion7, among the top 40 in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies in the world, owns Cos­sette, a leg­endary Cana­dian ad­ver­tis­ing company, as well as me­dia plan­ning and buy­ing ser­vices. It has pub­lic re­la­tions, so­cial me­dia and ex­pe­ri­en­tial mar­ket­ing di­vi­sions. Th­ese agen­cies have of­fices in the US, Canada and the United King­dom, with a to­tal of about 1,200 em­ploy­ees.

BlueFo­cus, the first Chi­nese pub­lic re­la­tions company listed on the Shen­zhen Stock Ex­change, raked in 2.17 bil­lion yuan ($358 mil­lion) in 2012, and has seen rapid growth of almost 100 per­cent for the past three years.

Head­quar­tered in Beijing, BlueFo­cus has 1,110 em­ploy­ees and four branch com­pa­nies in China and multi­na­tional clients in Asia, North Amer­ica and Europe. 40 out of its 200 global clients are from the For­tune 500, in­clud­ing Proc­ter & Gam­ble Co and Coca-Cola Co.

Data from the China In­ter­na­tional Pub­lic Re­la­tions As­so­ci­a­tion shows that the Chi­nese PR in­dus­try in 2012 was val­ued at 30 bil­lion yuan, show­ing an an­nual growth rate of 28 per­cent, thanks to sec­tors such as au­to­mo­biles, health­care and IT that are ex­pected to con­tinue to take the lead.

“They want to be­come a global hold­ing group in the spirit of Dentsu Inc., and WPP Group,” Greg Paull, prin­ci­pal at mar­ket­ing con­sul­tancy R3 World­wide, which is based in China and has been ad­vis­ing BlueFo­cus on ac­qui­si­tion tar­gets, told the Globe and Mail early this week. “Their vi­sion is to be­come a true global com­mu­ni­ca­tions firm.”

Last year BlueFo­cus ac­quired London-listed so­cial me­dia agency We Are So­cial, which spe­cial­izes in mar­ket­ing through so­cial net­work plat­forms. The deal en­abled BlueFo­cus to gain ac­cess to ex­per­tise in so­cial me­dia and its 400 em­ploy­ees in eight op­er­a­tions in ci­ties, in­clud­ing New York, Paris, Mi­lan, Sin­ga­pore and Syd­ney, with key clients rang­ing from sports­wear gi­ant Adi­das AG to Heineken In­ter­na­tional.

The Chi­nese group also ac­quired a mi­nor­ity stake in Fi­nan­cial PR, a Sin­ga­pore­based agency with of­fices in Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing.

This sum­mer it looked to the US with a majority stake in San Francisco de­sign company Fuse­pro­ject.

In a re­port, BlueFo­cus chief ex­ec­u­tive Os­car Zhao said that the company had set aside $300 mil­lion for fur­ther ac­qui­si­tions in the West.

“There will be more takeovers in the com­ing years,” said Zhao.

Holly Zheng, pres­i­dent of BlueFo­cus In­ter­na­tional said ear­lier that Canada def­i­nitely is part of the company’s ac­qui­si­tion plans es­pe­cially the high-tech com­pa­nies.

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