Each year, the law firm of Davis+Gilbert compiles data on mergers and acquisitions in the public relations and integrated marketing communications sector based on publicly available deal activity and its extensive experience in the market. The firm’s latest report identified 67 consummated deals in the 12-month period ending October 1, 2018.
Notably, the report data indicates a highly fragmented marketplace with no fewer than 57 different buyers involved in these transactions. The predominant takeaway is that competition in the sector is fierce, coming from an extensive array of buyers.
Davis+Gilbert further noted that, not surprisingly, almost all (92%) of respondents to a recent survey of independent PR firms said that they have been approached by a potential buyer in the last two years. In fact, over half the firms surveyed (54%) thought it was “likely” or “very likely” that they would sell by 2021, indicating that deal activity is likely to remain strong for the foreseeable future.
Significantly, Davis+Gilbert’s research further reveals that:
- Independent public relations firms were the buyers in 61% of the 67 transactions completed in the last twelve months.
- Private equity firms were the buyers in 2% of the deals.
- Public holding companies were the buyers in 37% of the deals, although they were involved in 55% of the deals involving sellers with over $10 million in revenue.
- Public holding companies had an 8% increase in public relations firm deals this year compared to last year.
Brad Schwartzberg, co-chair of the Corporate + Transactions practice group at Davis+Gilbert remarked that, “The high volume of deal activity in which independent PR firms bought other firms represents a dramatic change from just a few years ago. Historically, exit opportunities for the $3 to $4-million-dollar PR firm were few and far between, but with the recent trend of buying by independents, these smaller firms are now driving a significant amount of the M&A activity within the PR industry.”
Schwartzberg further noted that, “many mid-sized PR firms have realized they simply can’t build it fast enough, and with technology changing so rapidly, it can be more economical – and certainly faster – to buy rather than build.”
Additional key findings from Davis+Gilbert’s M&A outlook and report include:
- Technology and digital firms accounted for 39% of the completed transactions this year, which is five times more than transactions completed in any other category. This also reflects a 12% increase from 2017.
- Deals involving sellers with annual revenue in excess of $10 million increased by 15% from 2017, demonstrating the industry’s appetite for larger transactions.
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