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MSQ’s long-term plans lie far beyond Britain says CEO following acquisition by OEP

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By Sam Bradley, Journalist

June 19, 2023 | 5 min read

Chief executive Peter Reid explains his vision for the agency group.

msq peter reid

Peter Reid, chief executive officer at MSQ / MSQ

The acquisition by US-based One Equity Partners (OEP) may be the secret to MSQ reaching escape velocity.

The group, which owns agencies MBA, SteinIAS and Elmwood, is one of the largest agency operations in the UK outside the holding companies. But its long-term plans lie far beyond Britain.

“We’re trying to build out a next-generation, international marketing group that’s fit for the digital age,” says Reid. “What we mean by that is enough international scale to compete with traditional holding companies for some of the largest clients in the world, on a joined-up basis – and by offering a different proposition with traditional capabilities and the ability to deliver on the Salesforce and martech agenda.”

Those big clients – and the M&A targets the company will need to hit to expand fast – are in the US and Europe. OEP’s connections in each of those arenas should help smooth the path, he says.

Acquiree turns acquirer

Reid says that its US priorities come down to the market’s scale. “The opportunities are significant.” But timing is also in MSQ’s favor. While Britain’s economy sits in the doldrums, the US market will likely swing back into action faster. Inflation in the States has begun to slow, while the US Federal Reserve recently held interest rates.

As well as a European base comparable to its initial US presence, Reid’s priorities are companies with customer experience (CX) expertise. “Specifically, we want to build out our CX capabilities. We have some at the moment but we’re not at the appropriate level of scale to compete and win the digital creative standalone pieces, or to deliver that CX front end. That is one of our big prizes.”

The company’s “pure tech capabilities” need boosting too. “Not just designing and building websites, but that real depth needed for designing a whole tech ecosystem, cloud engineering, etc. We only really have that in the UK, so taking that into Europe and the US is important.”

Market conditions

MSQ has grown significantly in recent years. Its Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, deprecation and amortization) has tripled in four years, while revenues in the same period have doubled.

Reid says he’s confident that growth will be maintained. “I’m very confident that if we if we continue to get the basics, right, we will outperform the market.” Market trends are working in its favor, the business is humming along, and OEP’s investment will help it gouge out a bigger and bigger niche.

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“Firstly, we now have more investment support and firepower. We’re able to grow the combined business much more quickly on the back of the acquisition than we might be able to on a standalone basis.

“Secondly, we genuinely believe the market will continue to move more in our [direction]. I’m very confident we will take share from holding companies and maintain a very strong pitch win rate. I look at all our individual capabilities and agencies, and for lots of different reasons and feel like they’ve all got significant growth.”

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