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Engine Group sells 15% stake as it moves towards IPO

LONDON - The Engine Group, owner of ad agency WCRS and branding agency Dave, has sold a 15% stake to investment firm Loudwater Trust in what it described as 'first stage refinancing' as it moves towards a stock market listing.

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Engine is planning to use the funds to make more acquisitions in new media and corporate and financial PR. It already owns the PR agency Slice, stakeholder communications agency Advocacy and lobbying agency AS Biss & Co. Its digital interests are housed under the Altogether Digital brand, which was formed in July from agencies DC Interact, Eyefall and Meme.

Engine's board comprises some of the more distinguished names in the industry, including: WCRS founders Peter Scott, who is chief executive, and Robin Wight; veteran lobbyist Adele Biss; and Ed Eskandarian, chairman of Arnold Worldwide. Richard Wyatt, CEO of Loudwater, will join the board once the deal is approved at an extraordinary general meeting in September.

The group has been built around WCRS and Dave since 2004, when WCRS undertook a management buyout from Havas and began to acquire and start up new agencies. Havas bought a minority stake in the company in 2005, when it rebranded as Engine Group.

Its most recent acquisition was that of sports marketing agency Karen Earl Sponsorship, last year. It is planning a move into a new office next year, where all its agencies will be housed, and the deal will also help finance this move.

Scott said: "This is a very exciting time for Engine, as this refinancing deal gives us the scope to meet our medium-term expansion plans while leaving head room for further growth."

"In addition to the proposed office move, we are constantly looking for new partners in high-growth areas of the marketing services and communications industries that will add additional strength to our integrated offering."

Engine posted revenues of £25.7m in 2006 and is forecasting revenues of £40m in 2007. It currently employs 350 staff in nine partner companies.

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