FIVE public relations firms dominated the Western Australian corporate finance market last year, with FTI Consulting ranked a narrow winner based on the value of transactions it worked on.
FTI finished just ahead of Read Corporate, which increasingly stands apart from its competitors because it has remained an independent Perth firm rather than jumping into bed with a big national or international group.
The industry ranking is very different when measured by number of transactions; in that case, Subiaco-based PPR was the runaway winner, having worked on 68 transactions.
It was followed by Cannings Purple and FTI.
Magnus Investor Relations also ranked high in WA Business News’ annual corporate finance survey, a little more than one year after Perth expat and Magnus director John Gardner returned to his hometown to set up an office in the west.
FTI Consulting’s top ranking in the 2012 survey shows there is plenty of life in the Perth practice after its two high-profile principals, Paul Downie and John McGlue, sold their equity in the business.
Messrs Downie and McGlue led the business for more than a decade; their exit marked the full integration of the Perth practice into the global FTI network.
The changing character of the firm was also reflected in its head office; it moved from an old building in Nedlands that resembled a converted barn to an office building on Kings Park Road.
Now led by managing director Shaun Duffy, who previously worked for Patersons and Alinta, FTI’s Perth office has 13 staff, making it the sixth-largest public relations firm in Perth, according to WA Business News' Book of Lists.
During 2012, FTI worked on 35 corporate finance transactions worth $2.4 billion. Like just about every other player in the market, that was a drop from the 2011 numbers.
As WA Business News has reported in the first two instalments of its corporate finance review (in the last two editions of the newspaper), the total value of WA-related transactions fell by 40 per cent last year to $33 billion, denting the work flow for corporate advisers and lawyers as well as PR advisers.
The results of the 2012 survey show that public relations firms captured only a portion of the overall market.
The top six firms advised on about $10 billion of transactions last year, with the balance handled either by in-house PR teams or undertaken without any professional PR input.
The results of this year’s survey, like most league tables, were influenced by a handful of very large transactions.
FTI’s total was bolstered by its work for CGA Mining, which was on the receiving end of a friendly $1.08 billion takeover from Canada’s B2Gold Corp.
A lot of the financial and legal work for this transaction was undertaken in Canada but Mr Duffy said CGA was keen to have local representation because of its ASX listing.
It is advising Sundance Resources, which is going through the final stages of an 18-month long, $1.37 billion takeover by China’s Hanlong Mining.
Another sizeable deal for Read was advising Integra Mining on its $426 million takeover by Silver Lake Resources.
These deals reflect Read’s strong client base among mining companies. Other clients include Eureka Energy and Gindalbie Metals.
Magnus worked on the other side of the Sundance takeover, with Hanlong Mining among its clients during 2012.
That lifted the value of its transactions to nearly $2 billion.
The fourth-ranked firm in the survey, Cannings Purple, went through a branding change last year after local outfit Purple Communications linked up with Sydney-based Cannings Corporate, which is part of listed company STW Group.
The minority investment in Purple added to STW’s shareholding in Perth-based advertising agency The Brand Agency and media planning and buying company Ikon.
Ms Willmott has handed in her notice at Fortescue Metals Group, where she was director of external relations.
She has previously held senior roles at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was briefly the endorsed Liberal Party candidate for the seat of Cottesloe before Colin Barnett was lured back as party leader, and much earlier in her career was premier Richard Court’s chief of staff.
Ms Willmott is expected to work primarily in the public affairs and government relations field.
PPR’s ranking as Perth’s largest public relations firm (with 52 staff) was reflected in the large number of corporate finance transactions it worked on, for clients including BC Iron, Ausdrill, Aspen Group and Cape Lambert Resources.
Competition for Perth-based PR firms comes from a number of smaller local outfits, such as AMN Corporate, and interstate firms, such as Sydney-based firms Citadel PR, Westbrook Communications and Mandate Corporate, and Adelaide-based Field PR.