WPP Is Near Agreement to Sell 60% of Kantar Unit to Bain

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  • Deal for the market-research unit could come in the next few days
  • Bain discussions have valued the unit at about $4 billion

WPP Plc is planning to announce the sale of a majority stake in its Kantar market-research business to Bain Capital within days, people familiar with the matter said.

Bain has been discussing the purchase of a 60% stake, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. The parties are finalizing terms of an agreement and are preparing to make an announcement as soon as the next two days, the people said.

Representatives for WPP and Bain declined to comment. An announcement could still be postponed, the people said.

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The private equity firm entered into exclusive talks for the business last week after beating out rival buyout companies. The talks valued Kantar at about $4 billion, WPP said at the time.

The sale is part of WPP Chief Executive Officer Mark Read’s push to cut debt and simplify the global ad agency network after ditching his predecessor’s acquisition-fueled growth strategy. Read has said previously he’d like to keep a 25% to 40% stake in Kantar and will use some of the proceeds to offset earnings dilution.

WPP shares were down 0.2% as of 8:07 a.m. in London. The stock is up 16% so far this year.

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The advertising industry is grappling with a shift to digital ads, which are set to make up the majority of ad spending for the first time this year and are displacing more traditional media, according to research from Magna Global. Deals for advertising companies are up about 21% in the past 12 months from the year earlier, with bidders spending about $16.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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