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The Mission Group 1 April 2020 Update
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The Mission Group

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Full-year results

Media

1 April 2020

Price

57p

Market cap

£49m

$1.24/£

Net debt (£m) as at end December 2019 (non-IFRS 16)

4.9

Shares in issue

85.3m

Free float

57.5%

Code

TMG

Primary exchange

AIM

Secondary exchange

N/A

Share price performance

%

1m

3m

12m

Abs

(26.0)

(27.9)

(10.9)

Rel (local)

(12.5)

(2.6)

14.0

52-week high/low

108p

36p

Business description

The Mission Group is a marketing communications group employing 1,150 people in the UK, Europe, Asia and the US.

Next events

AGM

June 20

Analysts

Fiona Orford-Williams

+44 (0)20 3077 5739

Russell Pointon

+44 (0)20 3077 5700

The Mission Group is a research client of Edison Investment Research Limited

The Mission has reported FY19 results in line with levels indicated in the year-end update, with an 11% uplift in adjusted PBT and a 5% increase in diluted EPS. The new financial year started well, with a more coherent service offering and the agencies working effectively together to deliver new business on an individual and on a collaborative basis. COVID-19 is having a marked impact across the marketing sector as clients reschedule and adjust their spending plans, but it is too early to judge the financial impact that this will have on Mission’s FY20 results at this stage.

Year end

Revenue (£m)

PBT*
(£m)

EPS*
(p)

DPS
(p)

P/E
(x)

Yield
(%)

12/17

68.6

9.1

9.0

1.7

6.3

3.0

12/18

77.6

9.2

8.5

2.1

6.7

3.7

12/19

81.0

10.2

9.0

2.3

6.3

4.0

Note: *PBT and EPS are normalised, excluding amortisation of acquired intangibles and exceptional items.

Greater coherence

The Mission traded well across all its activities in FY19, with its largest segment, Advertising & Digital (80% of operating income), growing its revenues by 4.4%. All growth was organic. With the appointment of the group’s first CEO, James Clifton, in April 2019, and further new group roles added in business development, there has been noticeable impetus in developing both a more coherent group presence to external parties and greater internal collaboration. Some group agencies have been merged and the simplified group structure is encouraging cross-referrals and joint pitches, some under a Mission branding. COVID-19 is affecting some areas of the Mission’s activities more than others, but the speed of recovery in those areas may also be faster once the economy starts to recover. Much of the business is well suited to remote working. Property marketing and live events are most affected. We will initiate forecasts once the picture becomes clearer.

Facilities in place to handle hiatus

Year-end net debt of £4.9m (£11.1m including leases) was swelled by higher levels of working capital after a busy close to the year, which we expect to have corrected in the first couple of months of FY20. Outstanding acquisition obligations (£8.9m) are predominantly in cash, with £3.4m due in FY20 (£3.3m in cash). Mission has a committed £20m revolving credit facility (recently extended by £5m). This runs to September 2021, with a one-year extension option. It also has a £3m overdraft facility. Spending plans have been reined in and board salaries voluntarily reduced. A decision will be made on the final dividend closer to the June AGM.

Valuation: Price decline with sector

A combination of market volatility and withdrawn market forecasts compounds the difficulties in making prospective peer group comparisons for valuation. Historical multiples are in a wide range, with the more similar agency groups trading on a P/E of 6.7x, a premium of 22% to the Mission. UK agency sector share prices have fallen by an average of 45% year-to-date; the Mission’s price is down 28%.

A good set of results

The accounts were signed off by the auditors before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.

The Mission reported turnover growth of 7.0%, compared to the most recent AA/WARC industry assessment of 5.2% growth in total UK ad spend. However, turnover includes a substantial element of media put-through costs and management uses its operating income line to represent its revenues, being a more accurate representation of its progress. Reporting is by line of business, rather than being drawn agency by agency, with Advertising and Digital the largest segment by far, at 80% of group revenue. Revenue is mostly generated in the UK (89%), with the balance coming from the US (6%), 5% from Asia and less than 1% from the rest of Europe.

Growth came from a combination of new client wins and repeat and additional work from existing clients. The group has an impressive record of client retention. In FY19, around half of revenue came from clients that were also clients in the previous five years, and a third from those working with the group for more than a decade. The client roster covers a wide range of sectors and includes household names such as DFS, Petro-Canada, AstraZeneca, Aviva, Symantec and Bellway. The spread is such that only two group clients (names undisclosed) represented more than 3% of FY19 operating income.

The pattern of business is not static and under its new leadership, the ethos has changed from a loose confederation of marketing services businesses to a connected network supporting clients as a creative partner. CEO James Clifton was previously head of the group’s bigdog agency, which has now been merged with krow. Other group agencies have also been merged during FY19, with a shared service platform now operational that provides finance, IT and HR. The culture has been adapting effectively to date, with the internal communications platform facilitating quick response times for new business enquiries that require the resources of multiple agencies within the group and enabling a unified pitch.

Improving margins

The Mission reports its profits on an adjusted basis, adding back exceptional items (none in either FY18 or FY19), acquisition adjustments (FY19: £1.32m vs FY18: £1.01m) and start-up costs (FY19: £0.43m vs FY18: £0.14m). The acquisition adjustments are a combination of movements in fair value of contingent consideration (net upwards in FY19 vs net downwards in FY18) and the amortisation of other intangibles recognised on acquisitions.

The group regularly has start-up costs, as new activities or new geographies are added and ‘road-tested’ before being adopted (or closed if they are not performing to target). For the year just reported, the start-up costs reflect the opening of new offices in China and Germany. The sports marketing offering, Mongoose, started three years ago, has been a notable success. Mission also runs a technology incubator, FUSE. Its most advanced project is an asset tracking business, Pathfindr, which increased its revenues to £0.9m from £0.5m in FY18.

The table below shows the split of turnover and revenue between segments and the operating margin progression. Management’s own target is that the adjusted operating margin should continue to increase with a target of 14% by FY21. The margin expansion is predicated on management’s targeted revenue growth of 5%+ per year. The current COVID-19 pandemic will doubtless make the progression towards this less smooth, but much depends on the length of the disruption in the short to medium term and the longer-term hit to the economy.

Exhibit 1: Segmental reporting and margins

£000s

FY18

H119

H219

FY19

Turnover – Divisional split

 

 

 

 

Advertising & Digital

96,615

49,746

59,675

109,421

Exhibitions & Learning

17,488

9,860

10,301

20,162

Media Buying

36,473

18,195

12,659

30,855

PR

9,340

4,499

6,154

10,653

Total

159,916

82,300

88,790

171,091

Turnover growth year-on-year

 

 

 

 

Advertising & Digital

18.4%

15.1%

11.8%

13.3%

Exhibitions & Learning

45.1%

6.6%

25.0%

15.3%

Media Buying

-19.4%

-13.2%

-18.4%

-15.4%

PR

16.8%

-4.2%

32.5%

14.1%

Total

8.9%

5.4%

8.5%

7.0%

Operating income

 

 

 

 

Advertising & Digital

61,805

31,560

32,950

64,510

Exhibitions & Learning

5,202

2,361

2,865

5,226

Media Buying

3,469

1,880

1,814

3,694

PR

7,109

3,359

4,183

7,542

Total operating income

77,585

39,160

41,812

80,972

Gross margin

 

 

 

 

Advertising & Digital

64.0%

63.4%

55.2%

59.0%

Exhibitions & Learning

29.7%

23.9%

27.8%

25.9%

Media Buying

9.5%

10.3%

14.3%

12.0%

PR

76.1%

74.7%

68.0%

70.8%

Total

48.5%

47.6%

47.1%

47.3%

Central costs

69,127

35,545

36,535

72,080

Operating profit

8,458

2,616

5,278

8,893

Adjusting items

1,461

999

861

1,860

Adjusted operating profit

9,919

3,615

6,139

10,753

Adjusted operating margin to turnover

6.2%

4.4%

6.9%

6.3%

Adjusted operating margin to revenue

12.8%

9.2%

14.7%

13.3%

Source: The Mission Group accounts

Banking facilities in place

As indicated in February’s trading update, a busy close to FY19 sucked in more working capital around the balance sheet date. The group paid out additional contingent acquisition costs of £2.7m in FY19, from £1.7m in FY18. It has outstanding obligations totalling £8.9m, to be met by a combination of cash and shares, falling as shown below. However, we note that these sums are dependent on post-acquisition profit performance mostly for FY20, which may be difficult to meet given the circumstances.

Exhibit 2: Acquisition obligations

Source: The Mission Group accounts

Year-end net debt of £4.9m (non-IFRS 16) consisted of cash of £5.0m and a bank loan of £10.0m (the balance being unamortised arrangement fees), with the loan running to September 2021. The total facility (revolving credit) is for £20.0m, recently extended by £5.0m, with an option to roll-out for a further year. The interest rate is based on Libor plus 1.25–2.00%, depending on group leverage. Management targets leverage of less than 1.5x adjusted EBITDA (non-IFRS 16) and the figure for FY19 was comfortably below this at 0.4x. Including earnouts, this limit is 2.0x, well above the 1.1x figure for the group for FY19. These management targets are below those set by the banks, giving plenty of headroom.

Exhibit 3: Financial summary

£'000s

2016

2017

2018

2019

Year end 31 December

IFRS

IFRS

IFRS

IFRS

PROFIT & LOSS

Turnover

 

 

144,096

146,912

159,916

171,091

Cost of Sales

(78,198)

(78,321)

(82,331)

(90,118)

Gross Profit

65,898

68,591

77,585

80,972

EBITDA

 

 

9,677

10,873

11,334

12,225

Operating Profit (before amort. and except.)

 

8,202

9,597

9,919

10,753

Intangible Amortisation

(645)

(944)

(1,286)

(1,980)

Headline Adjustments

0

(1,889)

(546)

(990)

Other

0

(11)

(1)

69

Operating Profit

7,557

6,753

8,086

7,852

Net Interest

(487)

(473)

(735)

(668)

Profit Before Tax (norm)

 

 

7,715

9,113

9,183

10,154

Profit Before Tax (FRS 3)

 

 

7,715

7,224

7,722

8,294

Tax

(1,619)

(1,704)

(1,710)

(1,868)

Profit After Tax (norm)

6,097

7,409

7,473

8,286

Profit After Tax (FRS 3)

6,097

5,520

6,012

6,426

Average Number of Shares Outstanding (m)

82.7

82.9

83.3

84.1

EPS - normalised (p)

 

 

7.8

9.2

8.7

9.5

EPS - normalised and fully diluted (p)

 

 

7.5

9.0

8.5

9.0

EPS - (IFRS) (p)

 

 

7.3

6.5

7.1

7.5

Dividend per share (p)

1.5

1.7

2.1

2.3

Gross Margin (%)

45.7

46.7

48.5

47.3

EBITDA Margin (%)

6.7

7.4

7.1

7.1

Operating Margin (before GW and except.) (%)

5.7

6.5

6.2

6.3

BALANCE SHEET

Fixed Assets

 

 

86,975

91,777

107,002

107,416

Intangible Assets

83,075

87,951

96,121

95,859

Tangible Assets

3,576

3,513

10,858

11,360

Investments/ other

324

313

23

197

Current Assets

 

 

34,098

41,357

46,476

47,117

Stocks

485

668

850

1,091

Debtors

32,611

34,829

39,727

40,998

Cash

1,002

5,860

5,899

5,028

Other

0

0

0

0

Current Liabilities

 

 

(30,616)

(36,691)

(40,986)

(40,352)

Creditors

(28,366)

(34,191)

(40,986)

(40,352)

Short term borrowings

(2,250)

(2,500)

0

0

Long Term Liabilities

 

 

(13,529)

(16,289)

(24,896)

(21,946)

Long term borrowings

(10,315)

(10,708)

(9,886)

(9,927)

Other long term liabilities

(3,214)

(5,581)

(15,010)

(12,019)

Net Assets

 

 

76,928

80,154

87,596

92,235

CASH FLOW

Operating Cash Flow

 

 

8,492

11,975

11,684

10,454

Net Interest

(422)

(425)

(826)

(626)

Tax

(1,869)

(1,299)

(1,906)

(1,805)

Capex

(1,658)

(1,521)

(1,361)

(2,169)

Acquisitions/disposals

(3,580)

(2,921)

(670)

(2,839)

Financing

(169)

(65)

(1,938)

(2,096)

Dividends

(1,276)

(1,333)

(1,695)

(1,831)

Net Cash Flow

(482)

4,411

3,288

(912)

Opening net debt/(cash)

 

 

11,224

11,563

7,348

3,987

HP finance leases initiated

(90)

(84)

0

0

Other

233

(112)

73

0

Closing net debt/(cash)

 

 

11,563

7,348

3,987

4,899

Source: Company accounts


General disclaimer and copyright

This report has been commissioned by The Mission Group and prepared and issued by Edison, in consideration of a fee payable by The Mission Group. Edison Investment Research standard fees are £49,500 pa for the production and broad dissemination of a detailed note (Outlook) following by regular (typically quarterly) update notes. Fees are paid upfront in cash without recourse. Edison may seek additional fees for the provision of roadshows and related IR services for the client but does not get remunerated for any investment banking services. We never take payment in stock, options or warrants for any of our services.

Accuracy of content: All information used in the publication of this report has been compiled from publicly available sources that are believed to be reliable, however we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this report and have not sought for this information to be independently verified. Opinions contained in this report represent those of the research department of Edison at the time of publication. Forward-looking information or statements in this report contain information that is based on assumptions, forecasts of future results, estimates of amounts not yet determinable, and therefore involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of their subject matter to be materially different from current expectations.

Exclusion of Liability: To the fullest extent allowed by law, Edison shall not be liable for any direct, indirect or consequential losses, loss of profits, damages, costs or expenses incurred or suffered by you arising out or in connection with the access to, use of or reliance on any information contained on this note.

No personalised advice: The information that we provide should not be construed in any manner whatsoever as, personalised advice. Also, the information provided by us should not be construed by any subscriber or prospective subscriber as Edison’s solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect, any transaction in a security. The securities described in the report may not be eligible for sale in all jurisdictions or to certain categories of investors.

Investment in securities mentioned: Edison has a restrictive policy relating to personal dealing and conflicts of interest. Edison Group does not conduct any investment business and, accordingly, does not itself hold any positions in the securities mentioned in this report. However, the respective directors, officers, employees and contractors of Edison may have a position in any or related securities mentioned in this report, subject to Edison's policies on personal dealing and conflicts of interest.

Copyright: Copyright 2020 Edison Investment Research Limited (Edison).

Australia

Edison Investment Research Pty Ltd (Edison AU) is the Australian subsidiary of Edison. Edison AU is a Corporate Authorised Representative (1252501) of Crown Wealth Group Pty Ltd who holds an Australian Financial Services Licence (Number: 494274). This research is issued in Australia by Edison AU and any access to it, is intended only for "wholesale clients" within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001 of Australia. Any advice given by Edison AU is general advice only and does not take into account your personal circumstances, needs or objectives. You should, before acting on this advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. If our advice relates to the acquisition, or possible acquisition, of a particular financial product you should read any relevant Product Disclosure Statement or like instrument.

New Zealand

The research in this document is intended for New Zealand resident professional financial advisers or brokers (for use in their roles as financial advisers or brokers) and habitual investors who are “wholesale clients” for the purpose of the Financial Advisers Act 2008 (FAA) (as described in sections 5(c) (1)(a), (b) and (c) of the FAA). This is not a solicitation or inducement to buy, sell, subscribe, or underwrite any securities mentioned or in the topic of this document. For the purpose of the FAA, the content of this report is of a general nature, is intended as a source of general information only and is not intended to constitute a recommendation or opinion in relation to acquiring or disposing (including refraining from acquiring or disposing) of securities. The distribution of this document is not a “personalised service” and, to the extent that it contains any financial advice, is intended only as a “class service” provided by Edison within the meaning of the FAA (i.e. without taking into account the particular financial situation or goals of any person). As such, it should not be relied upon in making an investment decision.

United Kingdom

This document is prepared and provided by Edison for information purposes only and should not be construed as an offer or solicitation for investment in any securities mentioned or in the topic of this document. A marketing communication under FCA Rules, this document has not been prepared in accordance with the legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research.

This Communication is being distributed in the United Kingdom and is directed only at (i) persons having professional experience in matters relating to investments, i.e. investment professionals within the meaning of Article 19(5) of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Financial Promotion) Order 2005, as amended (the "FPO") (ii) high net-worth companies, unincorporated associations or other bodies within the meaning of Article 49 of the FPO and (iii) persons to whom it is otherwise lawful to distribute it. The investment or investment activity to which this document relates is available only to such persons. It is not intended that this document be distributed or passed on, directly or indirectly, to any other class of persons and in any event and under no circumstances should persons of any other description rely on or act upon the contents of this document.

This Communication is being supplied to you solely for your information and may not be reproduced by, further distributed to or published in whole or in part by, any other person.

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Edison relies upon the "publishers' exclusion" from the definition of investment adviser under Section 202(a)(11) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and corresponding state securities laws. This report is a bona fide publication of general and regular circulation offering impersonal investment-related advice, not tailored to a specific investment portfolio or the needs of current and/or prospective subscribers. As such, Edison does not offer or provide personal advice and the research provided is for informational purposes only. No mention of a particular security in this report constitutes a recommendation to buy, sell or hold that or any security, or that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person.

Frankfurt +49 (0)69 78 8076 960

Schumannstrasse 34b

60325 Frankfurt

Germany

London +44 (0)20 3077 5700

280 High Holborn

London, WC1V 7EE

United Kingdom

New York +1 646 653 7026

1,185 Avenue of the Americas

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United States of America

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Frankfurt +49 (0)69 78 8076 960

Schumannstrasse 34b

60325 Frankfurt

Germany

London +44 (0)20 3077 5700

280 High Holborn

London, WC1V 7EE

United Kingdom

New York +1 646 653 7026

1,185 Avenue of the Americas

3rd Floor, New York, NY 10036

United States of America

Sydney +61 (0)2 8249 8342

Level 4, Office 1205

95 Pitt Street, Sydney

NSW 2000, Australia

General disclaimer and copyright

This report has been commissioned by The Mission Group and prepared and issued by Edison, in consideration of a fee payable by The Mission Group. Edison Investment Research standard fees are £49,500 pa for the production and broad dissemination of a detailed note (Outlook) following by regular (typically quarterly) update notes. Fees are paid upfront in cash without recourse. Edison may seek additional fees for the provision of roadshows and related IR services for the client but does not get remunerated for any investment banking services. We never take payment in stock, options or warrants for any of our services.

Accuracy of content: All information used in the publication of this report has been compiled from publicly available sources that are believed to be reliable, however we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this report and have not sought for this information to be independently verified. Opinions contained in this report represent those of the research department of Edison at the time of publication. Forward-looking information or statements in this report contain information that is based on assumptions, forecasts of future results, estimates of amounts not yet determinable, and therefore involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of their subject matter to be materially different from current expectations.

Exclusion of Liability: To the fullest extent allowed by law, Edison shall not be liable for any direct, indirect or consequential losses, loss of profits, damages, costs or expenses incurred or suffered by you arising out or in connection with the access to, use of or reliance on any information contained on this note.

No personalised advice: The information that we provide should not be construed in any manner whatsoever as, personalised advice. Also, the information provided by us should not be construed by any subscriber or prospective subscriber as Edison’s solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect, any transaction in a security. The securities described in the report may not be eligible for sale in all jurisdictions or to certain categories of investors.

Investment in securities mentioned: Edison has a restrictive policy relating to personal dealing and conflicts of interest. Edison Group does not conduct any investment business and, accordingly, does not itself hold any positions in the securities mentioned in this report. However, the respective directors, officers, employees and contractors of Edison may have a position in any or related securities mentioned in this report, subject to Edison's policies on personal dealing and conflicts of interest.

Copyright: Copyright 2020 Edison Investment Research Limited (Edison).

Australia

Edison Investment Research Pty Ltd (Edison AU) is the Australian subsidiary of Edison. Edison AU is a Corporate Authorised Representative (1252501) of Crown Wealth Group Pty Ltd who holds an Australian Financial Services Licence (Number: 494274). This research is issued in Australia by Edison AU and any access to it, is intended only for "wholesale clients" within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001 of Australia. Any advice given by Edison AU is general advice only and does not take into account your personal circumstances, needs or objectives. You should, before acting on this advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. If our advice relates to the acquisition, or possible acquisition, of a particular financial product you should read any relevant Product Disclosure Statement or like instrument.

New Zealand

The research in this document is intended for New Zealand resident professional financial advisers or brokers (for use in their roles as financial advisers or brokers) and habitual investors who are “wholesale clients” for the purpose of the Financial Advisers Act 2008 (FAA) (as described in sections 5(c) (1)(a), (b) and (c) of the FAA). This is not a solicitation or inducement to buy, sell, subscribe, or underwrite any securities mentioned or in the topic of this document. For the purpose of the FAA, the content of this report is of a general nature, is intended as a source of general information only and is not intended to constitute a recommendation or opinion in relation to acquiring or disposing (including refraining from acquiring or disposing) of securities. The distribution of this document is not a “personalised service” and, to the extent that it contains any financial advice, is intended only as a “class service” provided by Edison within the meaning of the FAA (i.e. without taking into account the particular financial situation or goals of any person). As such, it should not be relied upon in making an investment decision.

United Kingdom

This document is prepared and provided by Edison for information purposes only and should not be construed as an offer or solicitation for investment in any securities mentioned or in the topic of this document. A marketing communication under FCA Rules, this document has not been prepared in accordance with the legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research.

This Communication is being distributed in the United Kingdom and is directed only at (i) persons having professional experience in matters relating to investments, i.e. investment professionals within the meaning of Article 19(5) of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Financial Promotion) Order 2005, as amended (the "FPO") (ii) high net-worth companies, unincorporated associations or other bodies within the meaning of Article 49 of the FPO and (iii) persons to whom it is otherwise lawful to distribute it. The investment or investment activity to which this document relates is available only to such persons. It is not intended that this document be distributed or passed on, directly or indirectly, to any other class of persons and in any event and under no circumstances should persons of any other description rely on or act upon the contents of this document.

This Communication is being supplied to you solely for your information and may not be reproduced by, further distributed to or published in whole or in part by, any other person.

United States

Edison relies upon the "publishers' exclusion" from the definition of investment adviser under Section 202(a)(11) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and corresponding state securities laws. This report is a bona fide publication of general and regular circulation offering impersonal investment-related advice, not tailored to a specific investment portfolio or the needs of current and/or prospective subscribers. As such, Edison does not offer or provide personal advice and the research provided is for informational purposes only. No mention of a particular security in this report constitutes a recommendation to buy, sell or hold that or any security, or that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person.

Frankfurt +49 (0)69 78 8076 960

Schumannstrasse 34b

60325 Frankfurt

Germany

London +44 (0)20 3077 5700

280 High Holborn

London, WC1V 7EE

United Kingdom

New York +1 646 653 7026

1,185 Avenue of the Americas

3rd Floor, New York, NY 10036

United States of America

Sydney +61 (0)2 8249 8342

Level 4, Office 1205

95 Pitt Street, Sydney

NSW 2000, Australia

Frankfurt +49 (0)69 78 8076 960

Schumannstrasse 34b

60325 Frankfurt

Germany

London +44 (0)20 3077 5700

280 High Holborn

London, WC1V 7EE

United Kingdom

New York +1 646 653 7026

1,185 Avenue of the Americas

3rd Floor, New York, NY 10036

United States of America

Sydney +61 (0)2 8249 8342

Level 4, Office 1205

95 Pitt Street, Sydney

NSW 2000, Australia

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