Events giant Informa postpones dozens of big events as Covid-19 restrictions bite

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The world’s largest exhibitions group has cancelled or delayed events worth £425 million in revenue because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Informa, which organises more than 500 events a year, such as the China Beauty Expo, Monaco Yacht Show and the Lloyds bank National Business Awards, said that it was unable to predict how much revenue or profit it would make from exhibitions this year.

It has postponed 45 large events that generate £350 million in revenue, delayed 70 smaller shows worth £50 million and cancelled a further 13 exhibitions that bring in £25 million in sales.

The company, which owns the Lloyd’s List shipping news service and academic publisher Taylor & Francis, is responding to the increasingly strident measures being implemented globally to slow the spread of Covid-19. Governments are restricting travel and banning public gatherings to counter a disease that has already killed more than 4,000 people and infected 114,000 globally.

“We are facing a 2020 impact from Covid-19 in our events-related businesses and . . . swiftly deploy a material postponement programme, shifting our events calendar to later dates in 2020,” said Lord Carter, 56, chief executive. “At this point we are not providing market guidance [for] 2020.”

Informa traces its roots back to the late 17th century, when a shipping news sheet was first published in a coffee shop owned by one Edward Lloyd. The company was created in its current form in 1998 through the combination of IBC Group and Lloyd’s of London Press. It bulked up through the acquisitions of Datamonitor, Taylor & Francis, the publishing house, and in 2018 bought UBM, an events specialist, for £3.8 billion in cash and shares.

Exhibitions account for 65 per cent of revenues; the remainder comes from subscriptions to its mainly digitally based publication and business information services.

Shares in Informa, which had fallen by a third since the start of January, rose 24.8p or 4.4 per cent, to 588.8p, after stronger-than-expected results for last year.

Revenues rose 22 per cent to £2.9 billion, boosted by the UBM acquisition, while adjusted operating profits increased by 6.5 per cent to £933 million, some £18 million higher than forecast. Statutory pretax profits edged up from £221.6 million in 2018 to £246.1 million last year. It raised its dividend payment for the year from 21.9p to 23.5p.

The company said that its subscriptions businesses, including Lloyd’s List Intelligence and its academic journals, would “grow consistently” this year, with “minimal impact” from coronavirus.