Informa will next month hold its first major event since the coronavirus pandemic led to widespread cancellations of trade fairs, although the world’s biggest exhibitions operator warned that a global recovery for the sector remains at least months away.
The FTSE 100 group said on Friday that the China Beauty Expo, which will bring about 3,500 people working in the cosmetics and beauty sector around the world to Shanghai for two days, will be held in early July.
“The prospect of a return for some of our major events brands in mainland China from July is now real,” said Stephen Carter, chief executive. However he warned that the outlook remained “mixed” for the rest of the world and that he expected the pace of recovery in other markets to be “gradual and phased”.
With a large chunk of its operations having ground to a halt, the company estimates that annual revenue this year will be about £2bn, down by almost a third compared with last year.
Informa, which also publishes academic journals and owns the 282-year-old shipping industry journal Lloyd’s List, makes about two-thirds of its revenues and profits from its events business, following the 2018 purchase of rival UBM in a £4bn deal.
The group said the Chinese economy was picking up, with the authorities “recognising” trade shows as less risky compared with other large-scale events with thousands of attendees. It added that all its future events would adopt new safety standards, such as non-contact registration and social-distancing measures.
Informa’s share price, which has fallen by more than a third since February, rose more than 9 per cent in early trading on Friday.
In the US, its largest events market, the group does not expect to run any events before September. It pointed to the challenge of “different local guidelines and restrictions in place and varying attitudes amongst local communities”.
Sarah Simon, analyst at Berenberg, called the news “pretty comforting” but added that “no one is investing in Informa on the basis of 2020”.
Both China and Germany, two of the world’s largest trade show markets, have encouraged trade shows to resume as the countries ease measures taken to control the spread of the virus.
In April, Informa raised £1bn through an emergency share placement prompted by what it called a “significantly deeper, more volatile and wide-reaching” crisis than it first envisioned.