Huntsworth confident as PR industry shows strong growth
Public relations group Huntsworth (HNT) has said it is confident it will meet a full-year profit target as crisis management and social PR show strong growth in the tough economic climate, offsetting a slowing financial sector.
The company, which owns Sutton Coldfield firm Haslimann Taylor, and Citigate at Five Ways, said first-half pre-tax profit rose to £12.2 million from £10 million last year.
Analysts are forecasting the group is on target for full-year pre-tax profits of £25 million.
Huntsworth chief executive Peter Chadlington said: “We have made 49 per cent of it (targeted pre-tax profit) in the first half and with the momentum in July and August we feel we’re in a good position to meet them (forecasts).”
The economic slowdown has hit parts of Huntsworth’s PR businesses, which represent 75 per cent of revenue, but boosted others the firm said.
“While financial PR dropped off, crisis management, corporate and social responsibility, public affairs and green PR have seen increased activity as a result of the downturn,” said Mr Chadlington.
Huntsworth said financial deal-led projects, such as stock market listings and mergers and acquisitions were down 40 per cent compared to last year. However, consumer revenue rose 12 per cent as clients shunned expensive campaigns in favour of more affordable PR work to keep products in the public eye.
“The average fee we take is much cheaper than the cost of a major advertising campaign so companies are maintaining PR work,” added Mr Chadlington.
Pre-tax profit for six months to the end of June rose 22 per cent as group revenues jumped 14 per cent to £80.5 million. The firm hiked the interim dividend by eight per cent to 0.7p. Shares closed at 62.5p, up 0.5p, an increase of 0.8 per cent.
The company, present in 29 countries and employing 1,800 staff, said new business wins stood at £30.4 million at the end of the first half. New clients included Heinz, Carling and Cadbury together with public affairs work for Lafarge and the Scottish government.
Mr Chadlington said the company would focus on organic growth in 2008 but that he saw the firm as a “consolidator within a sector where consolidation is inevitable”.