BlueFocus Communication Group is China's biggest homegrown marketing services group, and has established a significant presence in Western markets. It's primarily a PR group, though different, mostly acquired subsidiaries also offer digital marketing, especially in social media, as well as traditional advertising and media investment, event management and other disciplines. Core of the business is PR agency Blue Digital, now partnered by entertainment ad agency Bojie Media (acquired in 2013), interactive advertising agency SNK (acquired 2011) and a local PR joint venture with Dentsu among other units. The group also has outposts in key Western markets, and has strengthened its profile with regional acquisitions including international social media agency We Are Social and US design agency Fuseproject in 2014. In its biggest acquisition to-date, BlueFocus agreed to acquire the North American assets of Vision7 at the end of 2014 for $210m, including advertising agency Cossette and PR network Citizen Relations (in the UK as well as North America). A deal was announced in 2017 to merge those assets with US performance marketing platform Fluent to create an expanded marketing services giant still 63% controlled by BlueFocus but publicly quoted in the US. However a 20% stake in UK-based PR group Huntsworth, acquired in 2013, was divested four years later. Oscar Zhao founded the business in 1996 in Beijing. It expanded steadily, becoming the country's top homegrown PR agency by 2007. Rather than accept a buyout from Western groups, he floated the group in 2010. He remains chairman & CEO. Holly Zheng is president & CEO, international. In the four years to 2016, gross revenues increased five-fold to the equivalent of around $1.8bn. Holmes Report estimated PR fee income of $268m in 2016, securing BlueFocus a second year among the world's Top Ten agencies. Adbrands does not currently offer a business profile for this company but subscribers may access account assignments and contact information. The searchable account assignments database is available to full subscribers to Adbrands.net premium services; or see here for information on how to subscribe.
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Capsule checked 11th April 2018
Adbrands Weekly Update 4th May 2017: Chinese PR group BlueFocus has pulled out of struggling UK counterpart Huntsworth, selling the bulk of its 20% shareholding for a loss, and placing the remaining shares up for sale at a later date.
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Apr 2016: The Holmes Report published its latest ranking of the world's leading PR agencies by fee income. Edelman easily retained the #1 position, albeit with a slightly reduced margin over second-placed Weber Shandwick, owned by Interpublic. Omnicom's FleishmanHillard and Ketchum held the #3 and #4 positions. WPP's Burson-Marsteller moved up to equal 5th alongside Publicis-owned MSLGroup. However the biggest change was a 37% increase in fee income for China's BlueFocus which jumped five places in the ranking to the #10 spot, unseating Havas PR. Among the holding companies, Omnicom slipped from first to third place by combined estimated fee income, behind Interpublic and WPP.
Adbrands Weekly Update 24th Mar 2016: Chinese marketing group BlueFocus reported another year of spectacular growth in 2015, with revenues up over 44% to RMB 8.6bn, or around $1.3bn. The increase was driven by international acquisitions such as Cossette and Citizen Relations of Canada and global social media network We Are Social. However net profit plunged by almost 90% as a result of finance expenses and depreciation costs associated with its aggressive acquisition drive .
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Sept 2015: Fast expanding Chinese marketing group BlueFocus reported a 30% increase in revenues for the first half, to the equivalent of around $547m. Additional acquisitions could put it neck and neck by the end of the year with MDC (first half revenues of $639m) as the world's 7th largest traditional marketing services group behind Havas. Revenues included $156m from international subsidiaries such as newly acquired Cossette/Vision7 in Canada. However net profit plunged over 70% to $13m as a result of finance expenses from its acquisition spree.
Adbrands Weekly Update 26th Mar 2015: Chinese group BlueFocus reported another set of spectacular financial results for 2014. Gross revenues (including media billings) soared by 67% to the equivalent of $965m, while net profits rocketed 63% to $115m. Digital accounted for more than half of revenues. Through a series of acquisitions, most recently Canada's Cossette and Citizen PR, BlueFocus has established itself as the only Chinese marketing group with a fully international footprint. PR, including social media, is still its biggest business but it has a growing profile in traditional creative advertising. International business accounted for around 7% of revenues in 2014, but that figure is expected to rise to 20% with the first full year contribution from Cossette.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Dec 2014: Chinese marketing group BlueFocus was confirmed as the successful bidder for Vision7 North America, the parent entity for Canada's top Francophone agency Cossette, also a major force in English-speaking advertising, and the local offices of Citizen Relations and digital agency Dare. That business was put up for sale earlier this year by private equity owner Mill Road Capital. The price tag was quoted at $210m. BlueFocus will control an 85% stake in the business, with the remaining 15% shared between senior management. The Chinese group also vowed to support the continuing expansion of Cossette into the US and the growth of its Citzen PR operations there. The deal is the biggest step yet by BlueFocus into Western markets. The sale doesn't include the European operations of Vision7, including Dare UK, Elvis and Identica. These will continue to operate independently.
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