Emily Tan
Aug 29, 2013

MHP Comms to acquire The Consultancy to branch into APAC

HONG KONG – UK-based Engine, the independently owned parent group of public relations firm MHP Communications, has acquired a majority stake (51 per cent) in local boutique PR firm The Consultancy for an undisclosed sum.

Devine (left) and Smith
Devine (left) and Smith

Starting today, The Consultancy will be renamed MHP Communications Hong Kong and will be helmed by its founder and chief executive, Emma Smith. Smith will also join MHP’s senior management team. Her focus will be on ensuring continuity in client service, staffing and operations, and on further expanding the new business’s footprint in Asia.

Specialising in financial and corporate communications, The Consultancy was founded a decade ago by Smith after stepping down from her role as Asia-Pacific leader for Weber Shandwick.

“After leaving a large organisation like Weber Shandwick, I saw a niche in the market for senior-level consultancy,” Smith remembered in an exclusive interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific. Her team of 10 (nine in Hong Kong and one in Sydney), she said, is comprised of senior members of the industry who frequently deal directly with CEOs.

This approach is very similar to the three agencies that merged in 2010 to form MHP: Mandate, Hogarth and Penrose, said Gavin Devine, chief executive of MHP and now, chairman of its Asian division. “We have been working with The Consultancy for years thanks to shared clients, and its similarities to us drew us to the agency when we decided, 18 months ago, to enter Asia.”

MHP’s reasons for the deal, he added, is a desire to build growth in Asia. “Our clients too are excited to enter Asia,” said Devine, adding that he would be ‘surprised’ if in the next few months the agency doesn’t have clients signing up ‘both ways’—UK clients entering Asia, and Asian clients entering Europe.

Currently, MHP has a head count of around 180 (not including The Consultancy) across four offices in London, Edinburgh, Brussels and Washington.

“It goes two ways – this is a partnership for us in every sense of the word. We’ve tried to do this right."

Smith decided to take MHP up on its offer because of the strong working relationship it has had with The Consultancy. “It’s great for my team too," she said. "MHP has a very good digital and social offering and it’s very important to me that we’re right up there in best practice.”

The decision to rename the agency, added Smith, was made by The Consultancy. “Adopting the brand made sense in terms of clear communications and branding. It’s the advice I would have given a client in a similar situation, so it would be foolish for me not to follow it myself.”

While MHP has its eye on expanding into several more markets in Asia, Devine refused to commit to any concrete plans. “Our primary focus now is to integrate the two agencies so we speak the same language and work from the same systems.”

A statement from Engine noted that the acquisition was an important step in the group’s global growth strategy which focuses on Asia and the USA. In 2011, the group bought a China-based branding agency now named Calling Brands.

“We are looking to add additional partners in 2013 and 2014 with the ongoing support of our shareholders and financial backers,” commented Engine chief executive, Peter Scott.

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