Informa H1 2021 revenues and net debt down, but group says confidence is returning across events portfolio

Global exhibitions and events group Informa announced, 28 July, its financial results for the six months ended 30 June 2021, reporting strength in its subscriptions-led businesses and returning confidence across its B2B events portfolio. Revenues and profits for H1 2021 were, however, down on the same period the previous year.

Group chief executive Stephen A. Carter (pictured), said the physical events business was “increasingly returning in Mainland China and progressively rebuilding in North America and the Middle East, with positive forward bookings and growing commercial confidence. Clearly, however, there is continuing restriction and uncertainty in other parts of the world and we continue to monitor the rules and relaxation approaches on a country-by-country basis”.

He added: “Looking ahead over the next three years, a Growth Acceleration Plan will focus on delivering further growth in Subscriptions and Services, progressive recovery in Physical Events and continued expansion of our range of Digital Services, to meet growing customer demand for data-led, digital solutions in all our businesses.”

H1 2021 financial highlights for Informa included posting statutory revenues of £688.9m (USD$961.7m), compared to H1 2020 £814.4m, and Adjusted Operating Profit1 of £69.2m (H1 2020: £118.6m) reflecting differing pandemic-impacts on the physical events business in the front half of 2020 and 2021.

A reduction in Covid-related exceptional costs and lower non-cash intangible amortisation delivered improvement in statutory operating loss to -£58.0m (H1 2020: -£739.9m).

The group reported high cash conversion, supported by strong subscription renewals, positive forward bookings and low levels of refunds had delivered free cash flow of £134.1m (H1 2020: £71.3m).

H1 2021 figures also reflected a reduction in net debt to £1,890.1m (FY 2020: £2,029.6m). The financial position and growing confidence in the outlook was reflected in investment grade status from Fitch, Moodys and Standard & Poors.

Revenue guidance for the 2021 Transition Year was raised to £1,800m (from £1,700m), with adjusted operating profit expected to be £375m post currency effects.

In all three of Informa’s major geographic markets (North America, Mainland China, Middle East), the company said it was seeing a progressive return of physical event activity alongside increasing demand for digital services, with good customer  support and progressive rebooking into 2022.

For 2021-2024 Informa will be implementing its Growth Acceleration Plan (GAP II), a programme to accelerate its strategy of market specialisation and increase digitisation in all its businesses.

In terms of the group’s division highlights, Informa Markets posted H1 2021 revenues of £187.6m, compared to H1 2020 figures of £282.1m.

In 2021, Informa says it is “continuing to make scheduling decisions on a brand-by-brand basis, informed by customer feedback and with the focus on long-term value. For some markets and brands, like Construction (World of Concrete) and Healthcare (Arab Health/Medlab), this has seen us stage more targeted out-of-cycle events this year, supported by additional marketing support and continued investment in AllSecure security and hygiene measures. For others, like Brand Licensing (Licensing Expo) and Environmental Services (WWETT), we are focusing efforts on 2022. In the next quarter, we will stage events in CyberSecurity (Black Hat), Fashion (Magic) and Health & Nutrition (Natural Products Expo East), among others”.

Demand for face-to-face platforms remains strong, the company says,increasingly evident as more markets open up, particularly among commercial SMEs, for whom the trade show remains highly valuable”.

“In Mainland China,” Informa says,over the last 12 months since reopening, we have seen a consistent and progressive recovery in physical events activity, to the extent that some of our major brands in Beauty & Aesthetics (China Beauty Expo), have more than offset the absence of international participation through domestic strength. Rebooking trends in the region for 2022 are robust, with the possibility that total revenue in Mainland China could return close to 2019 levels, notwithstanding international quarantine measures remain in place, as does limited cross-border participation.

“In North America and the Middle East, the returning schedule is one year behind China, with shortened sales cycles, and active decisions to make between an off-cycle return in 2021 or an on-cycle return in 2022.

“Where we have already brought our brands back to market in North America and the Middle East, participation levels have been broadly as expected, with the number of exhibitors running around half of 2019 levels and with overall participation running at around 35-40%.

“We expect participation levels to build over time and this is evident in the commitments we have for later in 2021, particularly where brands are running on a favourable industry calendar cycle. We are seeing progressive rebooking for 2022, giving us further confidence in our planned growth and recovery period through 2021-2024.”

Informa adds that its balance sheet remains “secure, with liquidity increasing to £1.5bn, no financial covenants on any of our Group level borrowings and no debt due to mature until 2023”.