Events firm Informa deepens cost cuts as pandemic drives loss

(Reuters) - Britain's Informa INF.L announced further cost-cuts, including layoffs and office closures, to ride out the pandemic that has kept the events industry in Europe and North America effectively closed and pushed it to a half-year loss.

The world’s largest exhibitions group, with around 11,000 employees mostly in the United States, Britain and China, reported an operating loss, including exceptional items, of 740 million pounds ($958.89 million) down from a profit of 248.3 million pounds last year, hit chiefly by COVID-19 impairments amounting to 592.9 million pounds.

The London-based company, whose shares have sunk 45% since March, said a combination of lower costs and effective cash management would make it cashflow positive on a monthly basis by January next year.

Revenue is seen at about 1.7 billion pounds this year, down from the 2 billion pounds it expected earlier, Informa said.

As part of its plan to save an additional 200 million pounds by the end of 2020, Informa said it would lay off staff in North America and Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

CEO Stephen Carter did not say how many jobs would go, but added that about 5% of the cost-savings would come from compulsory redundancies, while the rest were from venues, marketing, compensations costs, among others.

Due to the delay in reopening of events in markets outside Mainland China, Informa said it has extended its programme to reschedule physical events to mid- to late-spring of next year.

“We think that has the benefit of getting us the other side of winter ... and also it moves the business the other side of the American presidential elections,” Carter said.

Many analysts believe the events industry has already hit a bottom this year though some have warned that as long as business travel remains subdued, the first half of 2021 would be bleak.

On an adjusted basis, Informa reported operating profit of 118.6 million pounds on revenues of 814.4 million pounds, beating average analysts’ expectations of a profit of 68.6 million pounds on revenues of 759.9 million pounds.

Shares in the FTSE 100 company were down nearly 3% as of 0903 GMT.

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru, editing by Louise Heavens