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Informa plans deeper use of digital events even when pandemic abates


Informa PLC (LON:INF) has said revenue and profit for 2020 came in on target as it ran more than 500 virtual events due to the cancellation of almost all its physical exhibitions and events due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The FTSE 100-listed group said its revenue will be within the range of GBP1.65bn to GBP1.68bn and group adjusted operating profit around GBP250mln-GBP270mln, in line with the guidance given in September, despite crashing to a GBP740mln loss in the first half of the year.

While the events business was rocked by the coronavirus, the group was thankful for the consistent performance from its subscription-led businesses, which contributed more than GBP300mln to adjusted operating profit in the year.

By the end of the year, the group’s events arm had restarted physical events in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Egypt and Japan, as well as one outdoor event in North America, The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show – “the greatest boat show on the seven seas!”.

After COVID-19 sparked demand for virtual events, Informa said the digital experience gained through the year has “significantly accelerated our digital product development and we will further develop and enhance this capability in 2021”.

Chief executive Stephen Carter said the 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.”

A planned relaunch from late spring should see 90% of non-Chinese events planned for the year running from June onwards.

During last year the group also completed a GBP600mln cost-saving plan, including GBP400mln direct savings to adjusted profits and GBP200mln annualised indirect savings.

Management said they are confident that the business will deliver positive cash flow from the first quarter of 2021, a slight downgrade from their previous boast that this would be possible from January.

It was also announced that John Rishton will be the group’s new chair, with a handover from incumbent Derek Mapp to be completed by June’s annual shareholder meeting.

The shares rose 2% to 548p in early trading, still down almost 36% over the past 12 months.

Broker Peel Hunt noted that there was no specific guidance for 2021 outside of confirmation of a solid renewals season for the subscription business and robust demand at academia-focused Taylor & Francis, and in events the recognition that some tertiary events may not return.

–Adds shares and broker comment–

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