WPP to sell Kantar to Bain Capital in $3.1bn deal

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WPP said on Friday that it plans to sell a majority 60% stake in Kantar to US private equity firm Bain Capital, valuing the data analytics firm at $4bn.

The move comes as global advertising, marketing and media relations giant WPP continues its efforts to turn itself around following a series of profit warnings.

London-listed WPP said the deal “[F]urther simplifies and repositions WPP for growth, whilst unlocking significant value for shareholders”. The company plans to return about $1.2bn (£1bn) of the proceeds from the sale to investors. 

Overall proceeds to WPP on completion after tax and continuing investment in Kantar are expected to be around $3.1bn (£2.5bn)

Unlocking potential

“Kantar is a great business and we look forward to working with Bain Capital to unlock its full potential”, said Mark Read, Chief Executive Officer, WPP. 

“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.

“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.”

Luca Bassi, a 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. 

Expansion opportunities 

“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, a 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.”

Eric Salama, CEO, Kantar, said: “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.”

WPP's shares were trading 0.19% higher at £9.57 in London on Friday morning. 

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