Thursday 31 January 2019 12:49 pm

WPP sells stake in ‘Davos in the Desert’ consulting firm Richard Attias & Associates

WPP today said it is selling its stake in Richard Attias & Associates (RAA), the consulting firm behind the so-called Davos in the Desert conference in Saudi Arabia last year.

The advertising group said it will sell its minority stake in RAA back to existing shareholders as part of an ongoing plan to simplify its structure and focus on its core business.

Read more: WPP mergers fall amid restructuring plan despite increase in deals across sector

Sky News, which first reported the move, said WPP holds a 49 per cent stake and the deal could be worth tens of millions of pounds. WPP did not disclose the size of the stake or the value of the deal.

RAA, which specialises in helping countries improve their global image and reputation, is the firm behind the controversial Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh last year.

Scores of high-profile business leaders pulled out of the investment event, known as Davos in the Desert, following the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

It is unclear whether WPP’s decision to offload the stake is related to RAA’s involvement in the conference.

But the FTSE 100 has already unveiled plans to simplify its structure, and the sale comes after a series of mergers that has seen the creation of new combined agencies Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R.

Read more: WPP to slash 3,500 jobs as it launches new streamlining strategy

Last year WPP saw its total merger and acquisition deals cut in half amid the abrupt exit of founder Sir Martin Sorrell, according to data from Results International.

WPP is also eyeing a sale of its majority stake in data analytics firm Kantar and has announced plans to cut 3,500 jobs in a bid to make annual savings of £275m by 2021.