Bell Pottinger Asia unveils new name, distances itself from South Africa scandal

Bell Pottinger Asia has renamed itself to Klareco Communications. The name change follows a recent controversy surrounding its UK counterpart over controversial client work in South Africa. Markets affected by the name change include Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Myanmar, Marketing confirmed.

According to Ang Shih Huei, CEO of Bell Pottinger Asia, the company is now free to formalise its complete separation from the Bell Pottinger brand. In coming days, the agency will also relaunch under a new ownership structure with a new name and a “renewed vigour and clarity of purpose”.

The move was to emphasis the stand the company took over the past few days that its Asia team operates as a separate legal entity from Bell Pottinger in the UK.

“While the UK business is expected to go into administration as early as next week, the Asia business is entirely ring-fenced and solvent. Our teams are intact, we continue to serve our clients and it is entirely business as usual,” Ang explained.

As such, the new company will trade as Klareco Communications, which looks to showcase the “diversity and inclusive values of this team”, as well as its aspirations for the future. “Klareco” means clarity in Esperanto, which the agency said is the international language of hope and harmony.  Meanwhile, logistical issues are currently underway such as new email addresses and websites, which is a priority for the agency.

According to a release last November, Bell Pottinger has advised on transactions completed in 2016 with a combined value of over SG$9 billion (HK$52.5 billion).

Bell Pottinger UK was recently expelled from UK public relations trade body Public Relations and Communication Association (PRCA) for its work on a controversial contract in South Africa for Oakbay Capital, which saw the agency being part of a secret campaign to stir up racial tensions. Founder Lord Bell - who resigned last year - has admitted to the BBC that it is probably "near the end". Numerous clients, including HSBC, have cut ties with Bell Pottinger.

In an official statement addressing the matter, Bell Pottinger UK said that it has called in independent law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, to review the account and the work done on it. The agency also ceased work for Oakbay Capital three months ago.

“That investigation is still continuing and will be completed in the next few weeks. We intend to publish the findings of that report and take appropriate action,” the statement read. The scandal also saw the CEO James Henderson stepping down from his role.