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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Major Hits Local Ad Market

U.S. outdoor advertising company Clear Channel is set to hit local billboards after buying stakes in European companies with businesses in Russia.

Clear Channel has acquired 60 percent of France's Defi, one third of which is based in Russia, and 20 percent of Germany's Wall, which has 10 years in the local market under its belt.

With media-magnate Rupert Murdoch's recent purchase of APR-City — the biggest player on the Russian outdoor advertising market — it appears the local outdoor advertising market is seeing something of a renaissance.

Clear Channel, which has reported annual turnover of $8 billion, owns 1,170 radio stations and 19 television companies in the United States. In addition, the company controls some 700,000 outdoor advertising surfaces globally. In Moscow, there are just over 19,000 outdoor advertising surfaces.

Until recently, the interests of Clear Channel in Russia were represented by just one firm: MoreGroup, which in the '90s purchased a controlling stake in Russian companies Simon and Wennergen-Williams, which posted a turnover last year of $2.7 million and $4.1 million respectively. Both work in the outdoor advertising market — the former in Moscow and the latter in St. Petersburg.

But over the past month, Clear Channel's presence has increased considerably. A representative for the ClearChannel group, Robert Turner, confirmed the company's purchase of shares in Defi and Wall and said these acquisitions were not the last. The deals took place at the start of the year but have yet to be officially announced.

Defi generally works with large, illuminated installations on the facades and roofs of buildings. The company counts Philips, Bayer and Michelin among its 30 main clients.

Defi general director Mikhail Ryzhkov said the company did have a new major shareholder, and he confirmed that Defi's business had increased this year by 30 percent to 40 percent. Its turnover last year, according to the marketing agency Espar-Analitik, was about $3 million.

Wall specializes in placing advertisements on public-transport stops. The company controls 19,523 advertising surfaces, of which 2,211 are located in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Russia is Wall's second-largest market after Turkey. The company could not be reached for comment.

While Clear Channel's transactions were under way, Murdoch's News Corp. took a controlling stake in APR-City. News Corp. also kept mum for several months and only recently announced that the agency had changed its name to News Outdoor.

Russia's advertising industry has been seeing growth recently. According to Espar-Analitik, the volume of local outdoor advertising last year increased by 40 percent to $150 million.

"The fact that two international corporations have come onto the Russian market for outdoor advertising shows that foreigners understand where to expand their business," said Vladimir Yevstafyev, the president of the Russian Association of Advertising Agencies.

"Entering the market now might not be as expensive as in three to four years' time," he said.