Revenues down at Informa conference division, European shake up launched

Business publisher and events organiser Informa has reported adjusted operating profit down 2.6% to £190.4m for the first six months of this year. A shake-up of its European continental conference business is planned, where revenues and operating profits are down.

A new strategy and structure has been launched in the Knowledge & Networking division where the conference business sits, “to support a return to positive organic growth”, according to the company.

The Knowledge & Networking division’s revenues were down 5.5% to £116.2m, with adjusted operating profit down 19.3% at £17.7m.

Overall, Informa revenues were more or less static at £618.8m.

The updated financial statement for the Knowledge & Networking division said: “Given that our two most profitable divisions are performing well and the restructuring programme at Business Intelligence is on track, management is now focused on enhancing the performance of the Knowledge & Networking Division.

“In April we launched a new internal Divisional structure to bring together all our Conference, Learning and Training businesses into a single operating unit. This increases the focus on core verticals where we have good market positions through large branded events and puts greater emphasis on product innovation and customer engagement.

“Following the closure of our operations in Johannesburg and Melbourne in 2014, we continue to review our portfolio and are currently exploring strategic options for our Continental European Conference business.

“There will be some inevitable minor disruption as this new structure and strategy takes effect, but these changes should strengthen the margin in this business over time and see it return to growth.”

The Global Exhibitions division was a stand-out performer in the group, posting revenues of £168.8m, up 6.4%; and adjusted operating profit of £77.8m, up 10.3%.

The figures quoted are ‘organic’ rather than ‘actual’ numbers (which record a 14.2% growth in operating profit and revenues up 8.6%). Informa made its ‘organic’ calculations by adjusting the results for “material acquisitions and disposals and the effects of changes in foreign currency rates”.

The organic figures also exclude the consumer information businesses, which have been sold to Progressive Digital Media for £25m.

Informa group chief executive Stephen Carter has announced Charlie McCurdy would succeed retiring global exhibitions chief executive Will Morris, while headlining plans to review Informa’s continental European conference business, part of its Knowledge & Networking Division.

“The goal is a simple one: which is to progressively return all of the businesses in the group to growth,” Carter told an investor briefing.

The Business Intelligence unit, which is in the second year of a restructuring and which had its consumer information businesses sold to PDM, accounted for 22% of the group’s revenue and 15% of adjusted operating profit.

An Informa statement said: “We have also started to invest further in product innovation and technology. The benefits from these investments will deliver longer term returns but the progress made to date gives us increasing confidence that in 2015 we can at least halve the revenue decline reported last year.”

More acquisitions are expected on the exhibitions side, with only £12m spent so far of an Informa growth fund programme thought to be worth up to £90m.

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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