Informa warned that a quick return to business as usual in China is unlikely to spread to other parts of the world, as the world’s largest exhibition company has disclosed a pre-tax annual loss of $ 1, £ 1 billion due to the pandemic.
The FTSE 100 group said on Thursday it expected large-scale physical events to be one of the last parts of the economy to return to pre-Covid 19 trading levels.
“In China, our business is trading normally, but with a very weak international presence,” said Managing Director Lord Stephen Carter, adding that countries like the UK and the US have been much slower to pick up. measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Informa and its competitors have been able to organize major events in China since last summer thanks to the country’s large tracking and traceability system which has minimized further outbreaks of Covid-19. Other parts of the world have struggled to control infections, although some US states have now started to reopen.
“Immunization rates are changing at a pretty rapid rate in America now,” Carter said.
The company, which before the pandemic made 40% of its event revenue in North America, plans to host its first major U.S. event in June of this year – but it expects World of Concrete, based in Las Vegas attracts about half of the 60,000 people who would have visited in normal times.
“[Recovery] will vary as you move across America, California will vary later while Florida is already open. . . we can see the comeback coming, but it will be staged until 2021, ”Carter added.
Informa was forced to write down the value of its £ 593million event portfolio in 2020, citing ‘the impact of Covid-19 on the long-term trading prospects of our physical events’.
This pushed them into the hefty pre-tax loss, which was exacerbated by a 43% drop in revenue to £ 1.66bn in the 12 months leading up to the end of December. The group had reported pre-tax profit of £ 319million the previous year.
Adjusted pre-tax profit, which excludes coronavirus-related fees and costs, was £ 170m compared to £ 821m the previous year.
Sarah Simon, analyst at Berenberg, said Informa’s results were in line with expectations, but added that the timing of the return of physical shows would be difficult to predict.
“While today’s caution is understandable and reasonable, it’s hard to have more confidence at this point,” she added.
Shares of Informa, which have risen around 60% since last September when the company announced it was planning to host events again this summer, fell less than 1% on Thursday morning.
Rival Relx said Thursday it has hosted 56 physical events so far this year, mostly in China and Japan, but that its exhibits business continued to be “significantly affected by Covid-19”.
Event companies were forced to experiment with virtual solutions during the pandemic. Relx said the 70 digital events it hosted last year generated around 20% of the revenue generated from equivalent physical versions.