WPP buys design, direct marketing firms

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LONDON - WPP, the world's biggest marketing services group, based in London, has snapped up corporate literature designers Addison Design Company in the U.K. and a taken a majority stake in France's largest independent direct marketing agency, BFA.

Addison, the 54-strong company which numbers among its clients the BBC, Boots, BT and SmithKline Beecham, will cost WPP up to $13.8m, subject to the design company's performance over the next five years. Its name will not change but founder and principal shareholder Steve Smith will become non-executive chairman and Managing Director Simon Lake will take on the title of managing partner.

WPP's last major acquisition in the design sector was that of Coley Porter Bell eight years ago. During the three years preceding that purchase, the group indulged in a flurry of buying activity in the category, bringing firms such as Sampson Tyrrell and McColl into its design services portfolio.

BFA lists national and multinational companies on its client list, including France Telecom NNT, Merck, Amnesty and La Poste. WPP is paying $4.3m for 69.7% of the 30-strong Paris-based company, excluding the assumption of existing debts of $4.2m. It will also have the option to buy the remaining shares within the next six years for up to $5.6m.

BFA reported pre-tax profits of $2m for the year ended December 31 1996.

Copyright August 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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