LONDON--Public relations revenues at Chime Communications dropped seven percent in 2011, ahead of the management buyout of flagship firm Bell Pottinger. 

The group's PR division, which includes Good Relations and Harvard PR in addition to Bell Pottinger, saw earnings hit by the loss of a key US government contract in Iraq last year. Operating income for the unit reached £69.2m in 2011, accounting for 42 percent of overall group income, down from 49 percent in 2010.

The results come with Chime chairman Lord Tim Bell due to complete a buyout of the group's Bell Pottinger-branded firms. An announcement is due shortly, with sources expecting the new entity to utilise a partnership model led by Bell. 

"Discussions continue on the potential buyout of part of the public relations division which represents less than 10 percent of group profit," said Bell in the earnings release.

Public relations was the only one of Chime's four business groups to see a decline in 2011. Chime's sports marketing division, which is not subject to the MBO, rose by 16 percent to £40m, while its advertising unit recorded the same increase. 

The release noted that, aside from the US government contract, the PR division demonstrated growth. 

"Good growth was achieved in the financial, corporate, consumer, technology, Middle East and healthcare. Healthcare now represents over four percent of operating income of this division and this is expected to increase to over 10 percent in 2012."