The group has acquired London and Leeds-based search engine optimisation and digital marketing agency Branded3 Search for an initial £10.7m, £8.6m in cash and 1.4m in newly issued shares. However, additional performance related payments over the next three years could result in a further £14.3m being paid.

The 50-staff business operates in B2B and B2C markets with clients including Ann Summers, BMW, Heinz, HSBC, McDonald’s, Microsoft, More Than, Orange, Sky and Vue Cinemas. In the year ending 31 January 2013 it generated sales of £4.1m and a EBITDA of £1.7m before one-off items.

This latest deal matches the £25m St Ives spent on digital marketing agency Amaze in March and follows similar deals for companies such as marketing research and insight agency Incite in 2012 and retailer and consumer consultancy Pragma Holdings in 2011.

In line with previous acquisitions, the business will operate as a subsidiary of St Ives from its existing locations and the founders of Branded3, chief executive Vin Chinnaraja and director of search Patrick Altoft, will continue to lead the business.

St Ives chief executive Patrick Martell said the deal would add “significant depth” to its marketing services offering.

“Our combination of insight led innovation and trusted execution across digital and physical media creates a unique integrated offering in the market, which this acquisition complements well,” he said in a statement.

Chinnaraja added: “We have achieved another major milestone in our growth plans and becoming part of a synergistic, forward-thinking group where there is huge potential for collaboration is a real boost for us. I am really looking forward to working with the St Ives team to fulfil our ambitious plans.”

Speaking to PrintWeek, Martell said that there were no plans to merge the various recently acquired marketing services businesses or create a single group identity.

“There are some overlaps, but we absolutely haven’t bought these businesses to put them together for synergy benefits. We bought them because of what they are and what they do, we’ll invest in them, we’ll run them separately, but encourage them to collaborate where there are opportunities,” said Martell.

“With all of the businesses that we’ve acquired the brand is with the division, not with St Ives. They’re all their own brands, they all have their own brand strengths. We’re buying businesses that are either leaders in their markets, or have the potential to be. All have the ‘scale’ which is attractive to us.”

According to Martell, the company has looked at more than140 businesses since it embarked on its strategy to grow its marketing services operation. He added that further acquisitions could be on the horizon.

“We’ve said that we wanted to get non print to 40% of our operating profit as our first phase, and we’re pretty much there now. The next phase will be a combination of organic growth and possibly international expansion of those marketing services businesses and further acquisitions.”