Amid discussions and speculations, advertising agency giant WPP has officially entered into an agreement to sell 60% of Kantar to Bain Capital for $3.1 billion. The deal is expected to close in early 2020.
Kantar is a market-research firm that provides research, data, social-media moderating and other services to help marketers develop brands, campaigns and products. However, in recent months, the company has been underperforming under the WPP infrastructure with WPP CEO Mark Read saying during a poor Q3 earnings report that the advertising agency was open to selling part of its stake in Kantar.
Now with official confirmation from the company, the selling of Kantar to Bain Capital marks a time of restructuring for WPP in the wake of the departure of its long-serving CEO Martin Sorrell last year, who resigned under a cloud of controversy.
“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,” WPP current CEO Mark Read said in a statement.
“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." he continued.
WPP will still hold around 40% of the stake as it stands to benefit from Bain's acquisition while its other agencies (Chase, Kraft and Under Armour) have the flexibility to work with other sources of market research. Bain, which competed with several other buyout firms in its bid for Kantar, could reshuffle the firm by cutting headcount in some areas and adding experts in budding fields such as data analytics, user-experience (UX) engineering and multi-touch marketing, according to Marketing Dive.
"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," said Eric Salama, CEO of Kantar.