LONDON--Porta Communications CEO David Wright is aiming to substantially expand his company’s geographic footprint and service offering this year, after reporting revenues of £16m for 2012.
Citigate founder Wright, who launched Porta as a new marcomms holding group in 2011, told the Holmes Report that other PR agencies are “not diverse enough.” He said that, by the end of the 2013, “you will see a transformation of this business beyond recognition.”
Porta acquired City PR firm Threadneedle in 2011, while also launching Newgate, for which it hired some key senior executives who had departed Citigate, the firm that Wright founded in 1988 before selling to Huntsworth in 2003.
In a trading update earlier this month, Porta claimed annualised revenues of £16m for 2012 and more than £1m in new business fees. At the time, Wright said: "With all the main advertising and public relations companies within the group continuing to show strong revenue growth and all expected to be profitable in 2013, the outlook for the current year is extremely encouraging.”
In addition to Newgate, which has reached the £1m mark in fee income, Porta’s agency offering also includes media buying, marketing communications, direct marketing, digital and and sports marketing. It is this diversity that Wright believes puts him at an advantage against other agencies.
“We cannot survive on just being a PR company,” said Wright. “I think they are all struggling. You to have above-the-line and below-the-line, on an international basis.”
Wright said that clients now want multi-disciplinary marketing capabilities across international markets. “I don’t think that agency exists.”
To broaden Porta’s international footprint, Wright has launched Newgate in Brussels and Hong Kong, and plans to expand the group’s offering in Asia, Europe and Latin America this year, via a combination of startups and acquisitions.
"From a shareholder perspective, it's far better value to do startups, because you don’t pay huge goodwill,” he said. “But it’s very cash-absorbing in the short-term, so you need to bolster that with income-producing acquisitions. I suspect my move into the Far East and Australia will be startups and into Europe will be acquisition.”
After rising to a senior editorial role at the FT, Wright grew Citigate to a 2,500 person agency role before he left. “The market is changing,” he said. “I want to be ahead of the game again. I can do this in five years - I can build an operation as good as Citigate was in 2003.”
Wright also discussed his two key competitors at Citigate: Brunswick and FD (now FTI Consulting). He said that Brunswick was still a "formidable competitor", but noted that many financial PR firms were struggling amid a scarcity of deals. As for FTI, Wright said: "I don't know why they changed a great brand."
“Everybody is frightened now to do anything,” said Wright. “I believe if we move quickly, we can still be ahead of the game. It’s not just PR anymore - clients approach us for a number of reasons and, invariably, it’s not just PR.”
Newgate’s arrival on the scene has attracted attention in London’s crowded corporate PR market, thanks in part to a leadership team that includes former Citigate executives Jonathan Clare, Deborah Saw and Simon Nayyar.
“There are a lot of people who are very disenchanted, who want to be part of what we are building,” said Wright. “These are high-quality, intelligent people who need to be motivated.”