PR firms remain attractive for foreign buyers

Earlier this March Japanese multinational media and digital marketing communications firm, Dentsu Aegis Network, signed an agreement to acquire a stake in Emerald Co. Ltd, a leading full service digital marketing agency in Vietnam.

Following the deal, the HCM City-based Emerald will become a company within Dentsu Aegis Network's global digital marketing agency Isobar, and be known as 'Emerald-Linked by Isobar'.

The M&A deal was not the first in the Vietnam PR sector, only the first of the year.

The sector has seen many huge M&A deals by foreign companies, but they were not spoken as widely as the deals cases in other sectors.

For instance, in 2009 WPP - one of the world's largest communications services groups — announced that Ogilvy& Mather, one of its members, had acquired a majority stake in T&A Communications, a leading public relations and event management company in Vietnam.

The deal was part of VPP's strategy to develop its networks in fast-growing markets and sectors. Vietnam was a logical choice since it was one of the fastest growing markets in the world.

In 2008 WPP's subsidiary GroupM had bought a 30 percent stake in the Dat Viet Group VAC. WPP is also the largest partner of Smart Media JSC, a company founded by CNPT, Vietnam Television, Mobifone, VNPost and Goldsun.

According to VietNam Briefing Website, also in 2008 the Omnicom Group of the US had taken over three of the top 10 Vietnamese companies.

It bought BCI Brandcare, followed by the purchase of Biz Solutions by Omnicom subsidiary TBWA Group to establish the Biz Tequila joint venture.

TBWA also bought XPR Campaigns and established Campaign Solutions, which has emerged as one of the top international agencies in Vietnam.

In 2012 the world's largest PR firm Edelman bought AVC Communication and created AVC Edelman.

Richard Edelman, the president and CEO of Edelman, was quoted in the media as saying that multinational corporations operating in Vietnam had sought their services and a merger with a local firm had proved to be the quickest way to enter the market.

Now — and this trend is sure to continue — foreign PR groups continue to eye with interest Vietnamese companies with internet- and digital-based operations.

The PR industry has around 200 wholly Vietnamese-owned companies, all of which are struggling in the face of foreign competition.

According to analysts, foreign PR companies want to buy Vietnamese companies not because they want to do business here like they used to do in the past since foreigners are now allowed to set up wholly-foreign-owned companies.

But instead, they want to acquire Vietnamese companies to access the latter's experience and relationships.

Vietnamese PR companies want to join hands with foreign partners since they realise that many Vietnamese firms want to extend their business to overseas markets and would need their PR services there