RELX, whose Reed Exhibitions business organises the London Book Fair and BookExpo, has published a trading statement revealing exhibitions are being "impacted significantly" by the coronavirus outbreak, making the group's outlook for the year as a whole "highly uncertain".
The company, formerly known as Reed Elsevier, said its three largest business areas—Scientific, Technical & Medical and Risk & Business Analytics and Legal (together worth 84% of its revenue and 87% of adjusted operating profit in 2019)—saw "only a limited impact" from Covid-19 in its first quarter, with Elsevier reporting "overall revenue stability" from being 75% subscription-based.
However, although RELX said it had a "strong balance sheet" and "ample liquidity", it warned the group's results for the full year "may be affected by changes in the evolving economic environment and by activity levels in our customer markets".
Its exhibitions business (last year accounting for 16% of revenue and 13% of adjusted operating profit in 2019) is taking a bigger, more significant hit, and, as such, the company said it was therefore "unable to provide full-year guidance for the group as a whole".
In total events representing 35% of 2020 revenues have either had to be cancelled (5%) or postponed (30%) to later in the year. The latter will result in "some revenue attrition and extra costs associated with the rescheduling", the company said.
"We are taking action to save costs across the business, while continuing to serve our customers and maintain market presence to support the long-term value of our brands," RELX said.
"Depending on the impact and duration of the restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, further rescheduling or cancellation of events may be necessary, making the full-year outlook highly uncertain."
Finding a successor for outgoing chair Sir Anthony Habgood is meanwhile expected to "take longer than originally anticipated ... potentially extending into next year".