Informa reports robust trading, accelerated shareholder returns, but admits challenges in China

International exhibition organiser and digital services group Informa has announced “robust trading, strong performances in all businesses” and that it is “on track for upper end of market guidance” in a trading update, 16 June.

The group also announced it was increasing its share buyback programme from £300m ($363.7m) to £725m.

The trading update coincides with Informa’s Annual General Meeting.

The Group also reported continued progress on the 2021-2024 Growth Acceleration Plan II (GAP II).

Stephen A. Carter (pictured), Informa Group chief executive said: “Our GAP II programme is delivering growth, portfolio focus and shareholder returns. Today we are reporting robust and consistent trading and are reconfirming guidance, which combined with strong divestment returns allows us to expand our share buyback programme to £725m, whilst significantly strengthening our balance sheet.”

The chief executive added: “We welcome the progressive reopening of Mainland China whilst continuing to monitor broader market fluctuations and macro volatility. Notwithstanding these external factors, we are confident in our ability to deliver on our forward growth ambitions, underpinned by the resilience of our subscription businesses, the continuing return of Live and On-Demand Events, and our growing range of Digital Services.”

Trading highlights for the Group included underlying revenue growth of 40%+, a strong return in Live and On-Demand Events (100%+) and continued momentum in B2B Digital Services (10%+).

The Group said it remained on track for upper-end of 2022 guidance, supported by continuing return in all geographies. It said it expected full year growth in revenue, adjusted operating profit and earnings per share to be above historical trends.

Informa has also completed a £1.9bn Pharma Intelligence agreement, with additional future returns through a 15% equity interest in the ongoing business. A package of portfolio divestment is progressing well, the Group reported, with Financial Intelligence of significant interest.

Informa said its  deliberate shift to implement enhanced cash management processes was delivering benefits, with further strong cash conversion and free cash flow generation over the first five months of the year.

The strong free cash flow and the divestment of Pharma Intelligence, the trading statement said, had reduced net debt to zero, significantly strengthening the balance sheet and providing additional funds for growth. Informa’s outlook has been upgraded to ‘Stable’ by major credit ratings agencies (S&P Global, Moodys).

Informa’s strategy of market specialisation is accelerating through continued expansion in On-Demand and B2B Digital Services in key markets. This is most evident in Informa Tech, where the NetLine addition has added content syndication and platform capabilities, helping to expand the volume, quality and engagement of Tech audiences and accelerating the development of targeted lead generation services.

Informa’s trading update also reported its Live Events were returning at pace across North America, the Middle East, Europe, ASEAN and Latin America, with customer demand stronger than anticipated, with record net promotor scores underpinning high levels of rebooking, back at pre-pandemic levels.

The Group said it had run more than 200 Live Event brands across the world this year, attracting more than 1m participants, over 25k exhibitors and generating more than £400m of revenue.

Covid restrictions in China have limited Informa’s ability to run Live Events there through the first half and this will inevitably lead to some revenue leakage. In view of this, the Group said it had rescheduled major brands to the second half of the year. Informa now expects to deliver 60%+ of the revenue it had budgeted for the region this year.

“As Live Events return, we are progressively embedding more digital and on-demand capability in and around the core product in areas such as registration, enhanced use of digital product discovery and downloads, lead identification and customer connectivity,” the Group’s trading statement noted.

Through GAP II, the Group said it continued to invest in broader product diversification through a range of B2B Digital Services. “Underpinning all our digital developments is the continued roll out of IIRIS, our centralised B2B customer data and analytics platform. As we embed its registration, tracking and segmentation service offerings across core verticals, the increased volume and quality of data is enhancing our existing business through more effective sales and marketing, and building a consented first party data engine to fuel the development of lead generation, lead qualification and audience development products and services,” the Group said.

Details of the resolutions being presented to shareholders at the 2022 Informa AGM are available at