WPP sells a majority stake of Kantar to Bain Capital for US$4.0bn

WPP has entered into a $4.0bn agreement with Bain Capital to sell a 60% stake of data, insights and consulting company Kantar.

The holding group said the transaction further simplifies and repositions it for growth, and will unlock value for shareholders. Completion of the deal is expected to occur in early 2020. The agreement is also set to give a US$1.2bn (or £1.0bn) return to Kantar’s shareholders.

WPP will be selling a 60% stake of Kantar to Bain Capital for $4.0bn

According to WPP, discussions about finding a financial partner for Kantar to grow the business on a global scale began in October last year. The holding group’s plan entering into the search for a financial partner “was to remain a share owner with strategic links to ensure that the benefits to clients were realised”.

In February, when WPP AUNZ’s financials were released, revealing its decline in profits, the holding group revealed it had been in discussions with majority shareholder WPP Plc about the options for the Kantar research business.

Mark Read, chief executive officer of WPP, said the deal was about unlocking the full potential of the Kantar business and simplifying WPP.

“Kantar is a great business and we look forward to working with Bain Capital to unlock its full potential. As a strategic partner and shareholder in Kantar, WPP will continue to benefit from its future growth while our clients continue to benefit from its services and capabilities. I would like to thank Eric Salama, his team and everyone at Kantar for their tremendous contribution to WPP – a contribution that will continue as we develop the business together,” Read said.

“This transaction creates value for WPP shareholders and further simplifies our company. With a much stronger balance sheet and a return of approximately 8% of our current market value to shareholders planned, we are making good progress with our transformation.”

Eric Salama, Kantar CEO, said in a statement: “Our new ownership structure presents a great opportunity for Kantar, our employees and our clients. In Bain Capital we have a partner who shares our ambition, brings relevant expertise and – with WPP – can help us accelerate our growth and impact for clients. We are focused on delivering ‘human understanding at scale and speed’ and the ‘best of Kantar’ more consistently. We will do so by investing more in talent and by becoming a more technology-driven solutions provider.”

Luca Bassi, managing director at Bain Capital Private Equity, said: “Kantar is a market leader in many areas and we are excited to be partnering with its management team and WPP to build on this remarkable platform for growth. We see many opportunities for expansion and will invest in technology to expand the company’s capabilities and reinforce its global leading position.”

Christophe Jacobs van Merlen, also managing director at Bain Capital Private Equity, said: “We believe that we are well-positioned to support Kantar, alongside WPP, in driving forward the business in a rapidly changing industry. Our deep sector knowledge, operational expertise and strong track record of partnering with management teams to accelerate growth gives us confidence that we can help Kantar grow both organically and by acquisition.”

As part of the deal, WPP AUNZ will sell all of its stake which should bring in $AU150 million.

Kantar has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.


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