Its initial 45% BBBEE-ownership was achieved through its 2018 deal with Japanese international marketing, advertising and public relations company dentsu, which is listed on the Tokyo stock exchange.

This left the agency with three sets of shareholders: dentsu, a dentsu-backed Employee Staff Ownership Programme and FoxP2 partners.

The ESOP took the form of a BBBEE employee share trust structure across the dentsu South African group of companies, beneficiaries for which are selected from the entire dentsu South Africa group. The current deal, in which the Vumela Fund has acquired a 10% private shareholding, effectively places 51% of FoxP2 in the hands of Black owners.

While this is significant for the agency as a South African corporate citizen, the deal comes via a fund that is backed by one of its longest-standing clients FNB.

Product manager for SME Transactional Solution at FNB Commercial Tshepo Ntlamelle says that FNB has, in the past few years, been actively engaging with like-minded organisations to identify solutions aimed towards helping to accelerate transformation in various business sectors.

"One of the themes identified focused on 'support for emerging enterprises and Black businesses through procurement and enterprise development', with the aim to effect meaningful procurement spend across a number of commodities," says Ntlamelle.

"Our investment into FoxP2 through the Vumela Fund is strongly aligned to this objective, as we continue on our journey to empower businesses to achieve and sustain their transformation goals," Ntlamelle adds.

The objective of the Vumela Fund, established by FNB Business and Edge Growth in 2009, is to invest in high-growth SMEs with good economic and social impact returns.

Edge Growth, which manages the Vumela Fund and its investments, was attracted by FoxP2's culture, corporate structure and global partner dentsu.

According to Edge Growth investment principal Sam Tennant, the private shareholding deal took two years in the making and has been characterised by his team's respect for the agency growing steadily.

"The Vumela Fund's investments are typically medium-term in duration, that's five to 10 years of being locked into a relationship that needs to deliver on many different levels. Both parties wanted to ensure that we were the right partners best placed to meet each other’s needs," says Tennant.

"We appreciated that FoxP2 had retained their own identity and that dentsu was onboard with that. We're exceptionally excited to get to work with such a talented team and look forward to walking this journey with them over the next few years," concludes Tennant.

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