London-based Informa plc will officially resume its in-person events business with a three-day beauty expo in China during the second week of July, but says its overall revenues will likely decline by about a third this year as the timeline for the return of large gatherings in North America, its biggest market, remains unclear.
In a trading update issued Friday, the global B2B media and exhibitions firm said it expects to generate about £2 billion ($2.5 billion) in overall revenue in 2020, which would represent a 30.8% decline from the £2.89 billion it reported in its 2019 financial results.
Following a series of acquisitions and divestments over the past two years, in particular its $5.2 billion merger with exhibitions giant UBM in 2018, Informa says it now generates about 65% of its revenues through its events business. More than 160 of its events originally scheduled for 2020 have been either cancelled or postponed until 2021 as a result of the pandemic, the company said, together representing more than $375 million in revenue. Hundreds of others have been converted to virtual events.
“Activity in China has picked up pace through the past month, with authorities recognizing the controlled nature of trade shows and with exhibitors confident and keen to participate to help rekindle trading activity,” the company said in the trading update. “In Informa’s largest market, the United States, the Group is now assuming a low probability that any physical events will run before September, with most brands due to run in July/August either rescheduled, cancelled or switched to a fully digital event.”
Outside of China, the company said, “it is clear that some locations will take a lot longer to come out of the other side of COVID-19, both in terms of the permissions and practicalities of running an event and the confidence of participants to return.”
Informa recently unveiled a series of safety guidelines it says it will put in place for its exhibitions going forward, formed in collaboration with industry associations as well as fellow events organizers Reed Exhibitions and Clarion Events. These include considerations like “enhanced cleaning,” non-contact registration, temperature screening, physical distancing and discouraging physical contact such as handshakes.
Meanwhile, the company is continuing with a number of cost-cutting measures it first announced in April, which included a suspension of dividends, cuts to executive pay and a freeze on recruitment, salary reviews and merit raises. Altogether, Informa says it’s generated at least $500 million in savings through these measures and others. A share placement in April, worth about 20% of its existing capital, raised an additional £1 billion ($1.25 billion), the company said Friday.
“The prospect of a return for some of our major Events brands in Mainland China from July is now real,” added Informa CEO Stephen Carter in a statement. “Elsewhere, we are deploying AllSecure biosafety measures as permission emerges to operate events, although we expect the pace and shape of recovery to be gradual and phased by market.”