Informa today said it was hoping for a gradual return of exhibitions this year after the Covid-19 shutdown pushed the events group to a hefty loss.
The FTSE 100 company swung to a £1.1bn pre-tax loss in 2020, compared to a profit of £318m the previous year.
Adjusted operating profit came in at £268m, down 71 per cent but at the upper end of previous forecasts. Revenue dropped 42 per cent to £1.6bn.
Informa, which runs events including the China Beauty Expo and the Monaco Yacht Show, has been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis, with in-person events around the world grinding to a halt.
It has been cutting costs by laying off staff and closing offices, as well as raising equity and debt and postponing events in a bid to reduce the impact of lockdowns.
Informa said the events industry was recovering more quickly in China, the Middle East and the USA than in Europe, but described 2021 as the “transition year” for the return of in-person events.
The company said it expected to post baseline revenue of £1.7bn this year, but any additional revenue would be dependent on the pace of exhibition recovery.
Informa, which is the largest exhibition group in the world, has gradually shifted its focus more towards virtual events and its digital services, which include academic publisher Taylor & Francis and the historic Lloyd’s List shipping journal.
The company said its subscriptions business had continued to perform well and plotted further expansion in digital services.
Informa also confirmed the appointment of former Rolls-Royce chief executive John Rishton as its new chair.
It came as rival FTSE data and analytics firm Relx forecast full-year growth in its three main analytics divisions, but warned of continued uncertainty over recovery in exhibitions.
In a trading update today the FTSE 100 group reported a strong start to the year for its scientific, technical and medical (STM), risk and legal units, which together make up 95 per cent of revenue.
But it warned its exhibitions division, which makes up the remaining five per cent of revenue, had been significantly impacted by the pandemic and warned that the outlook remained uncertain.