Monday 15 March 2021 12:54 pm

Shares in events firm Ascential slump as pandemic sparks hefty loss

Shares in Ascential dropped this morning after the media and events firm revealed a hefty loss in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

The FTSE 250 company, which runs the Cannes Lions festival, reported a pre-tax loss of £166.5m last year, compared to a profit of £1.8m in the previous 12 months.

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The lacklustre figures were driven by a sharp rise in exceptional costs, while revenue dropped from £380m to £264m.

Shares in Ascential were down more than seven per cent following the announcement.

It follows a torrid year for the company, which saw its live events business battered by coronavirus lockdowns.

Revenue from Ascential’s marketing division, which includes the cancelled Cannes Lions festival, dropped 60 per cent, while retail and financial services declined 78 per cent.

This was partly offset by revenue from its digital commerce business, which provides managed retail and media services to brands on platforms including Amazon.

“Digital commerce is now our largest and fastest growing segment and is well placed to benefit from the structural gains arising from the acceleration in ecommerce adoption,” said chief executive Duncan Painter.

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“While our two marquee events are ready for a recovery as conditions allow, the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions continue to influence the timing of a return to maximum participation at venues. The pace and effective delivery of vaccines will also be a critical factor.”

Ascential said it would not pay a dividend for 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic on its cash resources and ongoing uncertainty.

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