WPP buys digital agency AKQA

MUMBAI: Global advertising giant WPP is buying stake in San Francisco based digital agency AKQA, the last big digital shops not yet public or owned by a holding company.

Though the purchase price was not revealed, the digital agency is valued at $450 million and trade estimates peg the price around that figure.

AKQA is backed by private-equity firm General Atlantic and at the end of 2011 had gross assets of $282 million with a forecast of profits to the tune of $230 million in 2012 as opposed to $189 million in 2011.

The announcement was made during the annual Cannes Lions held in Paris, France. AKQA will continue to operate as an independent and standalone brand within WPP and be led by founder and CEO Ajaz Ahmed and chairman Tom Bedecarré.

Bedacarre will also become president of WPP Ventures, a new Silicon-Valley based digital investment company.

Two years back, AKQA was approached by Japanese media house Dentsu, but the latter soon exited the talks. According top media reports, the asking price at the time was between $550 million and $600 million which was also speculated to be the reason for Dentsu’s withdrawal.

WPP too tried twice before things finally fell in place.

AKQA currently employs 1,160 people all over the globe and has offices in U.S., Europe and Shanghai. It provides expertise in integrated digital communications campaigns, social media, mobile, gaming work, and content creation and has clients like Delta, Diageo, EDF, GAP, Google, Microsoft Xbox, Nike, Target, Unilever and Virgin Money.

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