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WPP says its targeting European assets post-Brexit

The world’s largest advertising group snaps up a stake in a French media group and promises to make Europe a priority to avoid fallout from Britain’s EU exit.

Britain’s WPP plc (WPPGY) is bulking up on European assets claiming it has little choice but to buy businesses in some of its key markets in the wake of the U.K.’s Brexit vote.

The world’s largest advertising firm by revenues announced, on Thursday, Sept. 22, the acquisition of a stake in French media investment group Les Nouvelles Editions Indépendantes SAS, a holding company that controls Le Monde newspaper as well as magazines, online publishers and a French radio station.

“As a result of the U.K.’s referendum decision to leave the European Union, WPP will place an even greater emphasis on growth in Western Continental Europe, which includes four of the group’s top 10 markets: Germany, France, Italy and Spain,” WPP said.

WPP’s CEO Martin Sorrell was a vocal advocate for the campaign for Britain to remain in Europe, which lost the referendum after 51.9% of voters voted to leave the European Union on June 23.

WPP warned in August that uncertainty from the Brexit vote was weighing on advertising spending, but also noted it had benefited from the decision to leave the EU as the fall in the pound helped boost first half profit before tax by 15%, against a constant currency increase of 10%.

The acquisition of Les Nouvelles Editions Indépendantes, or LNEI, is WPP’s third on the European continent since the referendum vote. In July, it bought Conexance MD SAS, a French consumer database operator, and Belgium ad agency Famous.

LNEI was formed in 2009 by majority shareholder Matthieu Pigasse. The holding company has grown through a series of acquisitions and partnerships, that included a minority stake in Vice France, controlled by NY-based Vice Media LLC, a controlling stake in the French version of online newspaper the Huffington Post.

The holding company is also a founding partner of Mediawan, a media acquisition vehicle listed on the Paris Euronext exchange.

WPP said the investment in LNEI was inline with its “growing commitment to content.” The London-based firm also owns stakes in film studio The Weinstein Company, VICE, and the recently launched sports entertainment venture capitalist business CourtsideVC.

Shares in WPP traded Thursday at 1,833 pence ($24.01), up 23 pence or 1.3% on their Wednesday close.

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