'Strong' first half for RELX despite Exhibitions losses

'Strong' first half for RELX despite Exhibitions losses

RELX, parent company of Elsevier and RX, formerly Reed Exhibitions, saw revenue down 3%, but up 4% in constant currency, to a total of £3,394m in the first half of 2021 (£3,501m in first-half 2020). Adjusted operating profit was up 3% (11% in constant currency) at £1,023m (£990m).

At its Covid-devastated Exhibitions business, whose operations include the London Book Fair, revenue for the six months to end June was down 40% to £121m (£201m in 2020, itself a drop of almost 70% on 2019's first half revenues of £684m). However the company cut its losses to £48m, down from 2020's first-half loss of £66m, reflecting "the structural cost reductions that have been put in place" since last year.

RELX noted a gradual reopening of events in key territories. The Exhibitions arm held 87 face-to-face events in the first half, mostly in China and Japan, and more recently in the US, but noted: "Whereas exhibitor and attendance reaction to the events we have held has generally been positive, regulatory restrictions on the size and scope of many of these events have limited the revenue opportunity." Good progress had been made on digital initiatives, RELX said. Outcome for the year will depend on the pace and sequence of reopening, it added.

Meanwhile Elsevier, RELX's STM division, saw revenue dip 1% year on year to £1,276m, but that represented a 5% rise in constant currencies, with underlying growth (excluding acquisitions and sell-offs) calculated at 4%. Profit was flat with 2020's first-half at £476m, up 4% in constant currencies and with underlying growth also up 4%.

Elsevier's performance was driven by "continued good growth in electronic revenue", which now stands at 88% of divisional revenue. Print revenue, which now represents a little over 5% of total sales, "stabilised following the unusually steep declines seen in the same period last year." For its full-year outlook, RELX predicted the division would see underlying revenue growth "slightly above historical trends", with adjusted operating profit growing slightly ahead of revenue.

Chief executive officer Erik Engstrom said: "RELX delivered a strong first half with underlying growth trends across almost all market segments, returning to the improving trajectory we saw in the early part of 2020. We believe that this improvement is a reflection of our continuing strategy of focusing on the organic development of increasingly sophisticated analytics and decision tools that deliver enhanced value to our customers across market segments. Recent acquisitions, which have supplemented our organic growth strategy, have continued to perform well."