Informa trading update predicts gradual return of physical events rather than ‘full rebound’

The world’s largest exhibitions group Informa plc, in a 6 January update on trading ahead of its 2020 full-year results on 22 April 2021, has forecast a 70% drop in profit and is scheduling 90% of its physical events outside mainland China to run only from June 2021. The group acknowledged minimal major physical events activity had returned in 2020 outside of China.

The group’s revenue return for 2020 was expected to be in the range of £1.65bn (US$2.25bn)-£1.68bn and group adjusted operating profit in the range of £250bn-£270bn, according to the 6 June update.

The group’s share price moved up 2% on early London trading, 6 January, indicating the market had priced in the updated figures.

“(2021) is likely to be a year of return for physical events, rather than full rebound and recovery,” the Informa statement said.

The coronavirus pandemic had forced Informa, like many organisers, to cancel or postpone most of its big events last year, including China Beauty Expo, Monaco Yacht Show, World of Concrete and Arab Health.

The  trading update confirmed the group’s performance for 2020 was in line with the revenue guidance provided at the half-year results in September 2020 and Informa pointed to strong performances in its Subscription-led businesses, which delivered positive aggregate underlying growth across the year.

Informa’s digital services and virtual events grew at pace in 2020, with the group accelerating the integration of data and digital technology into and around the physical event brands.

The group’s Covid-19 Financing Action Plan had seen a programme of activities to deliver stability and security in financing completed, with earliest debt maturities extended to 2023, financial covenants removed and £1bn+ of liquidity confirmed.

The group reported over £600m of cost savings delivered by year-end.

Informa also reported that John Rishton (pictured) will be its new chair-elect. There will be a managed handover from Derek Mapp, completing at the Annual General Meeting in June 2021.

Stephen A. Carter, group chief executive, Informa plc, said: “The Informa Group enters 2021 with an intention to use the progressive return from Covid-19 to deepen our use of digital and data services, thereby ensuring our products and brands remain relevant in a post pandemic world. The continued strength and growth of our Subscription businesses and our prior decision to extend the physical Events Postponement Programme should serve us well as markets gradually open up and customer confidence recovers in the latter half of 2021. Equally important, will be our continued commitment to strengthening our digital and data capabilities.”

Lord Carter added: “In our Event-led businesses, in the absence of physical events in most regions, our brands and strong customer relationships enabled us to shift at speed to digital services and virtual events. At the same time, we have significantly reduced our operating costs, secured greater financial flexibility, deployed a major physical Event Postponement Programme and, critically, provided consistent support to colleagues and customers.”

Across the different businesses, renewal rates remained consistently over 90%, Informa reported, with annualised contract values positive and forward sales pipelines strong. 

The group acknowledged its three Event-led businesses, Informa Markets, Informa Connect and Informa Tech, had all faced significant disruption to physical events activities in 2020 across most regions, from key territories like the United States (c40% of 2019 Events revenue) to smaller markets for the businesses, like the UK (c5%).

Informa said rebooking for 2021 events in the Mainland China region has been encouraging, underlining the pent-up demand for physical tradeshows as markets re-open.

In the last few months of 2020, the group ran its first physical events in Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Egypt and Japan, as well as its first outdoor event in North America, The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and the outgoing year had seen saw more than 500 Informa virtual events of different shapes and sizes organised.