Danny McCance 6 Sep 2017 04:29pm

BDO to advise on potential Bell Pottinger sale

The mid-tier accountancy firm will advise troubled Bell Pottinger on the way forward, including on a potential sale, as the public relations firm continues to haemorrhage clients.

The agency, which was jointly founded by Lord Bell, adviser to Margaret Thatcher when she was prime minister, recently hit the headlines when it was accused in two separate reports of stoking racial tension in South Africa.

Earlier this week, it was expelled from membership of the Public Relations and Communications Association as a result of the findings. The public relations trade body described Bell Pottinger’s work for the South African based Gupta family as “reprehensible”.

Since then, a number of clients – including international bank HSBC, South African investment bank Investec, mining company Acacia and construction company Carillion – have walked away.

A spokesperson from the agency confirmed that BDO has been hired to look at the firm’s options. “These options include a sale but all options are being considered,” he said.

“This includes, like many other companies currently do, establishing a new board and management structure that will operate independently of the ownership of the business.”

A sale may prove to be a tall order. According to Reuters, Bell Pottinger’s second largest shareholder, wrote off its investment after failing to sell its £5m stake in the business.

And in an interview with the BBC yesterday, Lord Bell said that he thought it unlikely that the firm would survive.

BDO will be looking to save as many of the 250 jobs as possible across the agency’s offices in London, Asia and the Middle East. However, it refused to be drawn on potential plans.

“Due to reasons of confidentiality we do not comment on business matters of this nature,” a BDO spokesperson said.

The firm has seen some successes recently, taking joint top auditor spot for AIM companies in May, and expanding with 15 new partner promotions across the UK in June.

However, June also saw BDO’s Italian firm have its application for registration as an auditor of companies listed in the US turned down by the US audit regulator.