Revenue at Reed Exhibitions, whose businesses include BookExpo, dropped nearly 71% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, parent company RELX reported. Revenue in the exhibition group fell to £201 million, from £684 million in the first six months of 2019, and the group had an adjusted operating loss of £117 million, compared to a profit of £231 million a year ago.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Reed was forced to cancel many of its in-person events and transition to virtual shows. In addition to BookExpo, which conducted BookExpo Online in late May rather than the planned event at the Javits Center in New York City, (RELX said that 3% of exhibition revenue in the first half of 2020 came from electronic sources). Reed also owns the London Book Fair, which canceled its planned event just days before it was set to run in March.
RELX gave no predictions for how the exhibition group will fare moving forward, noting that the uncertain course of the virus and “the extent of event postponements and cancellations” made forecasts impossible. RELX did note that about 15% of all conferences planned for 2020 took place in the first half of the year before it canceled all fairs from mid-March through June. It hopes to conduct some 178 events in the second half of 2020, about 30% of all planned conferences for the year; another 30% of scheduled events for the full year have been called off. In addition, RELX said no major conferences will take place in North America until October and no significant European shows will be held until September.
For all of RELX, total revenue fell 10% in the first half of 2020, to £3.50 billion, and adjusted operating profit declined 24%, to £939 million. CEO Erik Engstrom, said that the company’s three largest business areas—scientific, technical, medical (STM), business & analytics, and legal—“continued to perform well in the first half, delivering good growth in electronic revenues with product and service quality being maintained at high levels.” Engstrom added that the exhibitions group “remains focused on serving its customers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
Engstrom continued: “Our longer term strategic priority is unchanged: the organic development of increasingly sophisticated information-based analytics and decision tools that deliver enhanced value to our customers, supplemented by selective acquisitions of targeted data, analytics and exhibition assets that support our organic growth strategies.”