Arab Spring takes toll on Chime unit's revenues

Chime Communications blames the Arab Spring for lower revenues in its public relations division - despite being one of the few groups to take up work connected with the uprisings.
Chime is run by Lord Bell of Belgravia, a former advisor to the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Pawan Singh / The National.
Chime is run by Lord Bell of Belgravia, a former advisor to the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Pawan Singh / The National.

Chime Communications has blamed the Arab Spring for declining revenues of its public relations unit, despite it being one of the few PR firms to have taken up work directly connected to the uprisings.

Chime, based in the UK, reported an operating profit of £14.5 million (Dh87.9m) for the first half of the year, a 13 per cent increase on the same period last year.

But operating income of the group's public relations division - which includes companies such as Bell Pottinger, Good Relations and TTA Public Relations - declined by 5 per cent to £32.7m in the first half.

The Arab Spring was one of the factors behind lower revenues in the PR division, the company said.

"Our public relations division had flat operating profits in the first half year with income affected by the slowdown in geopolitical work as a result of the turmoil in the Middle East," Chime said in its interim results.

It also cited a reduction in government communication work and the impact of debt problems in many other countries. Public relations work accounts for 42 per cent of the group's operating income, compared with 48 per cent last year.

Bell Pottinger Middle East, a Chime subsidiary, carried out public relations work for the Bahraini government during the protests there.

Hired by Bahrain's Economic Development Board, Bell Pottinger sent out several communications quoting Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain's crown prince. In one, he offered "condolences to the people of Bahrain for the painful days they are living".

At least 29 people were killed during the protests in Bahrain.

Bell Pottinger also undertook work for Muhammad Al Senussi, the exiled crown prince of Libya who has been living in London since 1988.

Despite the lower revenues from public relations, Chime said the division had a "strong profit performance", including in the Middle East.

Tom Mollo, the chief executive of Bell Pottinger Middle East, said the subsidiary had seen "a very strong start to the year".

Chime said the Arab Spring posed an opportunity.

"The events of the Arab Spring have created some short-term challenges, but in the medium to long-term the opportunities for us to provide communications advice to emerging governments are considerable. Bell Pottinger Group is uniquely placed to benefit from this," Chime said in its interim results.

Chime is run by Lord Bell, who is known for his advisory role in helping Margaret Thatcher win three general elections in the UK.

It has operations in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain and Doha, according to its website.

Bell Pottinger Middle East also has offices in the four Gulf locations, while sports marketing subsidiaries Icon and Fast Track, and the digital agency VCCP, are active in the region.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

Published: August 24, 2011 04:00 AM

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