STW Group, Australia’s largest marketing and communications company, consists of 70 specialist companies, including those that make up the Ogilvy public relations operation in Australia (STW has a complex joint venture relationship with Ogilvy parent WPP), but corporate and financial communications specialist Cannings continues to operate autonomously under its own brand, with a key focus on the mergers and acquisitions arena but with extended capabilities in corporate and financial communications, investor relations, crisis and issues management and even public affairs. In 2009, it incorporated the operations of Savage & Partners, another STW firm.

Chairman Graham Canning founded the firm in 1998 after a career in journalism and public relations (with the Australian Financial Review and Burson-Marsteller, among others), and has close to 40 years of experience in the field. Managing director John Hurst, another veteran of the Financial Review, joined in 2008 to expand the firm’s reach and network. Senior partner Luis Garcia has a background that spans journalism (the Review and Sydney Morning Herald) and politics (as chief of staff to the leader of the opposition in New South Wales) as well as communications. The remainder of the leadership team including partners Nigel Kassulke and Michael Mullane and directors Craig Badings, Kathryn Lamond, and James Canning.

The firm’s business today is divided into four broad categories: corporate finance (including M&A and IPO deals, restructurings and ongoing investor relations support); corporate strategy and issues management (restructurings, litigation, regulatory issues and corporate reputation management); investor communications and media training; and internal communications.

While the M&A business in Australia has declined somewhat over the past couple of years, Cannings continues to rank among the market leaders, having advised on transactions valued at more than $40 billion in 2010, including the largest transaction of the year in the Asia-Pacific region, AMP’s $14 billion acquisition of AXA APH Limited. As a result, the firm ranked 15th globally and 4th in the Asia Pacific region on the value of deals worked, according to mergermarket. Other deals included the transfer of Macquarie Investment Management’s $10 billion cash management trust to a cash management account; the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board’s $2.6 billion consortium bid for ING Industrial Fund; CPPIB’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Macquarie Media Infrastructure and $3.415 billion acquisition of Intoll; Macquarie Media Group and Southern Cross Media Group’s $294 million restructuring and capital raising; and Spanish food company Ebro Foods’ $615 million recommended takeover bid for SunRice.—PH