Informa said it remained confident about the future of in-person events, as the world’s largest exhibitions company returned to profit and shrugged off further Covid-related lockdowns in China.
The FTSE 100 group has, however, relocated several global shows from Hong Kong to Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai, partially as the territory’s severe quarantine rules are making international travel difficult.
“Hong Kong is definitely a market where our brands are dependent on international travel flows and that’s not practical at the moment,” Informa’s chief executive, Lord Stephen Carter, told the Financial Times.
Informa, which is parting ways with its intelligence arm to focus on trade shows and academic publishing, said on Tuesday that both exhibitors and attendees were returning to its business-to-business events such as Tissue World Miami and Tourism Plus Shanghai.
China, which returned to business-as-normal faster than other large economies during the first wave of the pandemic, is battling a surge in Covid-19 cases.
Carter said Informa had contingency plans such as alternative venues and dates for the company’s roster of exhibitions in China, which makes up roughly 13 per cent of revenues. He said he did not expect significant disruption.
“We experienced some version of this in 2020 and 2021. . . in both years there were locations [in China] that went through control measures, ”Carter said. The company had already moved back most of its events in the country, to allow “processes and approvals to settle” following the disruption from the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Informa swung from a £ 1.14bn loss in 2020, when travel restrictions and uncertainty during the coronavirus crisis grounded the events industry to a halt, to pre-tax profit of £ 137mn last year.
Group revenues rose 8 per cent to £ 1.79bn. The company said it expected 2022 sales to be in the range of £ 2.15bn and £ 2.25bn.
Citi analysts called the results “solid” in terms of reported numbers and its outlook. “Critical here is the commentary about the relatively limited. . . impact from the conflict in Ukraine – the company confirms 0 per cent exposure to the region, ”Citi said.
Informa’s share price was up just under 2 per cent on Tuesday morning, but it remains down roughly 35 per cent from a peak in January 2020, just before the pandemic erupted.