After a 12 month “soft launch” and many requests for a merger and acquisition process, the Independent Agency Search & Selection company (IAS) has announced its new division – IAS M&A.
“With our extensive knowledge of the local and international marketing communications industry we are very well placed to provide this service in South Africa and internationally”, comments CEO and Founder Johanna McDowell.
Building an agency and then finding the most suitable partners with a view to sell is not the easiest of processes. IAS has spent 10 years researching all types of agencies in the South African market place and this, coupled with a high level of international agency knowledge and experience, has put the IAS at the forefront of understanding the complexities of the industry.
IAS has had many approaches over the years for this kind of work – and in particular for BEE transactions. Recently, the IAS has built its list of black-owned agencies which is unique in the SA market, and this has also proven to be a winner in terms of inter-agency relationships and potential partnerships. This list now has more than 100 agencies of all different types across the full spectrum of 13 types of marketing services agencies.
The role of the IAS is to set up suitable introductions, consider the best type of transaction – be it merger, acquisition or the creation of a whole new entity – and to negotiate the initial phases with interested parties. Chemistry – as always – is essential.
The IAS is already involved in a number of transactions which are at various stages. “M&A work is not a quick fix,” says McDowell. “We want to do things properly and agency owners need to be comfortable that we will act always in their best interests,” she comments.
Sparking the need for this division has been IAS’s observation of many recent transactions between local agencies and global networks – some of which transactions have been very successful and others not so. McDowell continues, “It is all about sustainability and we would like to see successful transactions taking place which assist the agency founders move forward and grow into new spaces. The financial rewards are crucial and agency owners frequently only have one agency to sell. While price is important, softer issues like roles and responsibilities, ambitions of owners etchave to be taken into account. That is where we focus.”
“Timing for the sellers is crucial,” she concludes.
Financial and legal details are the role of the various parties’ own service providers, with IAS navigating the process with the agencies concerned.
With IAS and its international network, IAS has noticed a continued interest in South African agencies – notably from independent agencies in the US.
“Two of the most sought after creative agencies in the world – who do not have a presence in South Africa currently – have told us that they would like to invest here in some way either through pitching for new business or through the acquisition of a suitable local agency,” says McDowell. She adds that the IAS is looking at both possibilities and that there is a high expectation of more of these types of searches in future.