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Events First strategy sees UBM earnings rise

(ShareCast News) – UBM’s Events First strategy was looking like a winner in 2015, with the company reporting some impressive results on Wednesday, though some of its legacy businesses were flagging.
The FTSE 250 events, publishing and business information company saw continuing revenue – which excluded the disposed PR Newswire – rise 39.9% to £769.9m. That change was 35.2% at constant currencies.

Its total revenue was £974.6m, a 30.6% rise, or 25.9% at constant currencies.

UBM’s continuing adjusted operating profit was up 46% to £197.1m, or £40.5m at constant currencies. Total adjusted operating profit was up 36.5% to £245.5m, or 31.4% at constant currencies.

Its EBITDA grew 51.2% to £215.1m, from £142.3m during the 12 months.

Total adjusted fully diluted earnings per share was 40.5p, up 6% from last year’s 38.2p. The board announced a dividend of 21.6p per share, a 1.4% rise from 21.3p in 2014.

“UBM has taken significant steps in its transformation in 2015. We’ve integrated Advanstar, announced the sale of PRN, successfully begun implementing ‘Events First’ and delivered an operational performance ahead of expectations,” said chief executive Tim Cobbold.

“Looking forward, UBM is now a focused business with more than 82% of revenues derived from events across a range of industry verticals and geographies,” he added.

During the year, the company announced the $841m (£604.3m) disposal of PR Newswire, and the acquisition of Advanstar. The board said that integration was progressing well, with a first year return on investment of 10.3%, ahead of the acquisition case.

It also reported ‘excellent’ progress with its strategy of Events First, which saw margin-enhancing portfolio rationalisation and investment in three bolt-on event acquisitions during the period.

The 39.9% growth in continuing revenue was largely reflective of the Advanstar acquisition, the company said, with events revenye growth of 3.9% on an underlying basis.

Major annual events – UBM’s principal area of focus – grew by 5%. The division had strong odd-year biennial performance with revenue of £48.6m, up from £21.3m in 2014.

Revenue in its Other Marketing Services (OMS) division, which includes its legacy print businesses, was down 4.8% as anticipated.

UBM’s continuing adjusted operating profit margin was up 1.1 percentage points to 25%, and the board reported strong cash conversion of 107% during the year. Its net debt was reduced to 1.8 times EBITDA.

“The board expects continued good growth ,excluding the impact of biennials and ongoing portfolio rationalisation, although it remains conscious of the global macroeconomic uncertainty,” Cobbold said about the year ahead.

“It also expects further margin progress although this will be offset by the even-year biennial effect,” he added.