Relx sales fall as virus hits events business

(Reuters) - European information group Relx REL.L said on Thursday its revenue fell 10% in the first half of the year as the coronavirus pandemic halted public meetings, hitting the London-listed company's exhibitions arm.

The company, which has transformed from being a traditional media publisher to one focusing on data and analytics, had scrapped its forecast in April over uncertainty due to the global health crisis.

Formerly known as Reed Elsevier, Relx is the world's second biggest event organiser behind Informa Plc INF.L. Though this unit is Relx's smallest, it has been a dependable performer, and accounted for 16% of the company's revenue and 13% of its adjusted operating profit in 2019.

However, the division swung to an adjusted operating loss of 117 million pounds ($149 million) in the first six months of the year from a profit of 231 million pounds a year earlier, as revenue slumped 71%.

Chief Financial Officer Nick Luff said some events in China had restarted and more were scheduled in the second half.

“Whether we can do that will depend on what is happening in each location with each venue (and) what travel restrictions there might be,” he said.

“We operated two shows in China during June and right now we are operating 10 shows across three cities in China and one in Korea.”

Shares in Relx fell 4% as analysts at Citi said organic growth was “materially worse than expected”. Events was clearly a big driver, they said, but the performance of other division was also uninspiring.

The virus has infected more than 15 million people and many major world events, from the Tokyo Olympics to the Mobile World Congress have been cancelled.

Revenue fell to 3.50 billion pounds from 3.89 billion pounds a year earlier.

The company, which has not accessed government support schemes, kept its interim dividend unchanged at 13.6 pence.

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Keith Weir