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Kantar sale gets closer as WPP talks to private equity firms

It’s been four months since WPP announced it would sell a majority stake in Kantar, and it looks as though a deal may be close: The Sunday Times reports that there are four suitors circling the £3.5bn research and data business.

WPP CEO Mark Read has been keen to get rid of Kantar since he took over from Martin Sorrell last autumn. He revealed his policy on data at the WPP investor day in December, when he said: “It’s how we use it, not how we own it,” that counts. He also admitted that the sale of Kantar was important in helping WPP “get to targets more quickly.”

Rival agency groups do not seem to be chasing Kantar — the four companies said to be showing an interest are all private equity businesses. One of them is Bain, which bought Japanese agency ADK from WPP just over a year ago after a bitter dispute over the price.

TPG, which owns holdings in companies as varied as Airbnb, Spotify, Cirque du Soleil, Spotify, and the Creative Artists Agency, is also interested, according to The Sunday Times. Apax, which bought a majority stake in Matches Fashion last year is another, alongside Cinven, owner of Kurt Gieger shoes and Stada pharmaceuticals.

The Kantar sale is part of what Read calls the “radical evolution” of the group, which includes 3,500 job losses from 134,000 staff around the world. WPP’s drive is towards a “simpler, more integrated offer,” which has so far included the mergers of JWT with Wunderman, and VML with Y&R.

WPP’s share price has fallen 42 per cent over the last year as it struggles with the challenges facing every agency group, but it still had revenues of £16bn in 2017 and profits of £2bn. WPP reports its full-year 2018 figures on March 1st.

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