Tesco's Dunnhumby: Is Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP about to take a stake in the supermarket's data business?

Lynsey Barber
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The Tesco Clubcard creator could prove a lucrative deal (Source: Getty)

Tesco could be about to sell off a majority stake in its data arm that was responsible for creating the Tesco Clubcard loyalty scheme.

The world’s largest advertising firm, Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP, has made an offer for Tesco's Dunnhumby, Bloomberg reports.

Tesco brought in Goldman Sachs in January to explore options for Dunnhumby as part of the widespread cost cutting and downsizing of Tesco under chief executive Dave Lewis.

Options for Dunnhumby, which the supermarket originally invested in back in 2001 before taking full control of the data business in 2004, include a full or partial sale, or a market float.

Lewis said at the time: “The potential sale of Dunnhumby will have no impact on Clubcard. We don’t need to own it to have commercial arrangements in place. It is a great business, but it needs further investment. We are looking at all the different options. What I would say is there has been an awful lot of interest in that business and some people will want to work with Tesco and others might not want Tesco to be involved at all. “

WPP has previously been linked to a bid for the business, estimated to be worth up to £2bn, along with a number of private equity firms.

The beleaguered supermarket has already broken up its digital entertainment arm Blinkbox, selling off the music and movie streaming parts to Guvera and TalkTalk respectively, and closing the ebook side of the business.

Here’s what WPP had to say about its acquisition strategy for 2015 in its latest results, specifically data.

Transactions will be focused on our strategy of new markets, new media and data investment management, including the application of new technology and big data. Net acquisition spend is currently targeted at around £300m to £400m per annum, excluding slightly more significant "one-offs", like IBOPE in Latin America and Comscore. We will continue to seize opportunities in line with our strategy to increase the group's exposure to: faster growing geographic markets and sectors; new media and data investment management, including the application of technology and big data.

The advertising firm has already invested in what it called a “trifecta” of data technology firms in recent months - Appnexus, Comscore and Rentrak. The revenue from its data business stood at £2.4bn last year, accounting for around a fifth of its overall business.

If the deal were to happen, it would be one of WPP's largest ever.

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