First up Huntsworth boss Lord Chadlington (Peter Gummer as was) says he wanted to buy leading Chinese PR firm Blue Focus. But now BF, led by Oscar Zhao (left), has, in effect, turned the tables by buying 19.8 per cent of Chadlington’s firm for £36.5m, valuing it at a lofty £180m.
This deal has a wider significance than just the PR trade. To date the big old world marcoms companies led by WPP and Publicis Group have been busily buying anything that moves in China.
One of the reasons Japan’s Dentsu forked out £3.2bn for Aegis was to use the media buyer as a bridgehead into China; not something the Chinese were particularly keen on as it took them the best part of a year to approve the deal.
Because the Chinese, for very good historical reasons, don’t like anything that looks like colonialism, commercial or otherwise. And they’re now the people with the money; it’s just that in marcoms terms they’re not organised into entities anything like as big as WPP, Omnicom or PG.
So does the Blue Focus deal presage a new era of the Chinese building their own marcoms giants and moving to buy the erstwhile buyers?
It’s happened to a degree in banking and finance and also in telecoms, although’s China’s Huawei (a WPP client) has been thwarted in its bid to expand in the US through security fears.
Maybe in marcoms too Europe looks a better bet. A Chinese firm stake building in WPP? Don’t bet against it.