Media Square circling for design consultancies

AIM-listed marketing communications network Media Square could soon snap up more design groups, its chief executive suggested this week.

Media Square remains acquisitive following its recent spree of purchases, according to chief executive Jeremy Middleton. ‘We are still interested to talk to people [about acquisitions],’ he explains.

The expanding network acquired digital media group Arnold Interactive from Havas at the beginning of this month, at a cost of just £600 000.

Middleton says it was possible to negotiate a good price for Arnold as Havas was rationalising and ‘wanted out’ of the sector.

On Friday last week, it also signed off the acquisition of retail design and point of purchase group Coutts Retail Communications.

The deal sees Media Square take control of 94.9 per cent of Coutts, valuing the design consultancy at £21.7m.

Coutts’ clients include Asda, Marks & Spencer and Boots Retail International (see below).

‘This acquisition is a large one for us and it will take a few months to understand the dynamics of the business,’ says Middleton.

There are no plans to ‘push the businesses together in a major way’, so integration costs will be low, he adds.

The takeover of Coutts is part of Media Square’s strategy to build the retail side of its business, according to Middleton.

Earlier in the year, it acquired Oxford environmental design consultancy Marketplace Design (DW 25 March). It also owns Leeds retail branding and design group Fourninety.

‘A lot of our focus has been on the retail business. This led us to buy Marketplace and then Coutts,’ says Middleton.

In January Media Square announced its maiden full-year profit.

To accelerate the pace of the company’s growth, in May it placed 59 000 000 shares with investors, raising £10.6m of equity, helping to fund the recent string of acquisitions.

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