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The first half of 2005 saw the acquisition of Citigate parent company Incepta by Lord Peter Chandlington’s Huntsworth Group, a deal that put an end to a lengthy period of speculation about the company’s future.

Holmes Report

Corporate, financial and public affairs consulting firm with M&A capabilities

The first half of 2005 saw the acquisition of Citigate parent company Incepta by Lord Peter Chandlington’s Huntsworth Group, a deal that simultaneously put an end to a lengthy period of speculation about the company’s future and immediately provoked fresh speculation about a restructuring of Citigate’s operations to take advantage of new synergies. But if any of that was a distraction, it wasn’t evident in the firm’s performance: Citigate enjoyed its best year in a while, with U.K. revenues up 5 percent to more than £20 million and—perhaps a better indicator—mergermarket ranking the firm a solid number three in Europe in both volume and value of deals handled, and number one in the U.K. in terms of value.

Among the highlights: the firm assisted long-time client Pernod Ricard with its £7.4 billion acquisition of Allied Domecq; worked with Swiss company Holcim on its £1.8 billion acquisition of Aggregate Industries; provided support to British concrete company RMC during its £2.3 billion sale to Mexican giant Cemex; and managed the IPO of Premier Foods, the parent company of well known consumer brands including Typhoo Tea.

The U.K. financial public relations operation, Citigate Dewe Rogerson, is the flagship of the firm’s European operations, and enjoyed a strong year in 2004. With 130 people, it’s a financial communications powerhouse and major player on the British M&A and IPO scene, so it enjoyed some benefit from an overall increase in activity in the sector after several down years. But its corporate communications operation—which accounts for about a third of CDR revenues—was the biggest beneficiary of improving business confidence. Always strong in the financial services sector, the firm has been expanding its client base and concentrates on “active corporate reputation management,” with one eye always on the response of the financial markets. The firm is led by Jonathan Clare, supported by a trio of key practice leaders: Patrick Donovan, managing director of the financial practice; Jonathan Flint, md of the corporate group; and Michael Barclay, md of investor relations.

Other U.K. operations include Citigate Communications, specialists in issues and reputation management, with a heavy focus on media relations; Citigate Financial Intelligence (now CapitalBridge), which provides investor profiling and tracking and investment community analytics; and Citigate SMARTS, a regional network of offices in Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester. The firm can also draw on the resources of Citigate Public Affairs operation, even though that group is now operationally part of sister agency Global Consulting Group.

Almost all of Citigate’s offices across continental Europe are led by entrepreneurs who bought into the Citigate vision before selling. The major success of recent years has been moving to what Citigate calls an “intrapreneurial culture” without imposing unnecessary bureaucracy. So while the parent company has helped create some IT infrastructure, for example, the individual firms maintain their own policies and practices in HR and other areas. But the leaders serve on a European board and meet 10 times a year, and are supported by a strategy group led by European development director Geoffrey Morgan, which focuses on client services and new business development.

Citigate Dewe Rogerson entered the German market in 1996 and was one of the pioneers of the financial public relations market there. It has three offices—in Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Munich—and is particularly well known for its work in the IPO arena. Over the past 10 years, CDR has handled more than 100 capital markets projects, including work for 22 DAX companies. Recent transactions include work for Premiere, Bayer/LANXESS, Deutsche Postbank, WincorNixdorf, A.T.U Auto-Teile-Unger, Aixtron, Deutsche Lufthansa and Siltronic, but the firm has also expanded its range of services into related activities such as advising on management change, crisis communications and litigation support. The departure of Bernhard Meising in the first quarter of 2005 means that Christoph Schramm, a founder director of the firm in Germany, is now at the helm.

As far as the continental European operations are concerned, Citigate Sanchis is the strongest, ranked number two in the market by Spanish trade association ADECEC with about 50 people in six offices (including one in Lisbon) working across practice areas that include financial communications—the firm is the leader in M&A in Spain—corporate communications, public affairs, and crisis and issues management. Led by chairman and CEO José Antonio Lisbona, the firm serves clients including Hewlett Packard, Grupo Eroski, Gaz de France, L’Oreal, Grupo Iberostar, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Solvay, JT International, Siemens, Tele 2 and Hasbro. Highlights last year included work for Providence, Bosch, EIAA (European Interactive Advertising Association), Lógica CMG and Panasonic.

Other important operations include the Netherlands, where Citigate First Financial started life as an investor relations firm and has expanded into the corporate and strategic communications realm; France, where Citigate recently recruited a team from Publicis and handled a trio of major IPOs; as well as Citigate Gunpowder in Italy (about 50 people), Citigate Gramma in Sweden (30), and Citigate PR Force in Belgium (35). The firm can also handle trans-Atlantic assignments through its Citigate Sard Verbinnen operation in New York.

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