BlueFocus aims to acquire Canadian company

Updated: 2014-11-27 06:05

By Wang Ru in Beijing(China Daily Canada)

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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 Singapore-based 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.