LONDON — Next 15, whose holdings include PR firms Archetype, M Booth and OutCast, reported net revenue of £266.9m for the 12 months ending 31 January 2021, a 3% decrease on an organic basis from the same period one year earlier.

In reported terms, net revenue rose by 7%, thanks to the acquisitions of PR firms Nectar and M Booth Health, along with tech-focused players CRE and Mach49.

The group's brand marketing segment, which houses its PR holdings, reported an organic revenue decline of 5.5% (up 4% in reported terms) to £140.5m. Data and analytics fared better, up 8.2% on an organic basis to £48.4m, while the creative technology division was down 6% to £77.9m. 

Next 15, which is led by CEO Tim Dyson, noted that its B2B PR firms — Archetype OutCast, Nectar, Publitek — "performed well" while consumer agency M Booth "recovered in the second half after a Covid-impacted first half as clients deferred spend." IPO advisory firm Blueshirt had "a very strong year on the back of the US tech IPO market."

Overall, added the group, Next 15 benefited from 60% of its revenues being derived from the the tech sector and from its B2B marketing agencies, "which are focused on driving revenue for their clients, and which excelled despite the uncertain economic environment." 

The year also saw a recovery leading into 2021. Organic revenue declined 4% in Q1 of 2020 and 8% in Q2, before recovering to down 3% in Q3 and up 2% in Q4. 

Meanwhile, adjusted profit before tax was up 22% to £49.1m, as Next 15 moved quickly to adjust its cost base in light of the pandemic, addressing staff and property overheads as the nature of work changed dramatically.

The group also signalled to shift to four divisions, grouping its assets into insight, engagement, delivery and transformation businesses. There is also a bigger focus on ESG, including a DE&I audits and working towards B Corp status. 

"In a year like no other, these are excellent results," said Next 15 chairman Penny Ladkin-Brand. "As the first effects of the pandemic took hold at the start of the financial year, Tim said that he wanted Next 15 to come out of this year as a stronger business. He and the executive team have worked tirelessly in order to achieve that outcome. They have changed the way we operate, rethinking the offering to customers, how the businesses in the group interact and how we interact with our people.

"Most importantly, the past year has shown that our people have the character to handle challenges that are thrown at them. This resilience displayed by our people doesn’t appear on our balance sheet but it has proven to be an invaluable asset."

"Looking to the year ahead, the board is optimistic about the prospects for the group, despite the continued impact of Covid-19 on the economy," added Ladkin-Brand. "Covid-19 tested our business model but it also tested the character of the team that leads Next 15 and the people that work for the group across the world. The board remains confident of the group’s underlying prospects. We believe we have the quality of people, the strategy and the financial strength to continue to outperform our marketplace."