5 Howick Place
London, SW1P 1WG
Telephone: (+44 20) 7017 5000
Web site: https://www.informa.com
Sales: £1.76 billion ($2.37 billion) (2017)
Stock Exchanges: London
Ticker Symbol: INF
NAICS: 511130 Book Publishers; 511120 Periodical Publishers; 511140 Directory and Mailing List Publishers; 517311 Wired Telecommunications Carriers; 561920 Convention and Trade Show Organizers
Based in London, Informa PLC is a leading content and intelligence provider. Its products and services include academic journals and books, intelligence services and publications, learning platforms, exhibitions, and conferences. Its operations are organized into several key divisions, including Publishing, Business Intelligence, Global Exhibitions, Knowledge & Networking, and Global Support. Another division was added in 2018, when Informa acquired UBM plc for $5.2 billion.
Although Informa is a young entity, formed by a merger in late 1998, its earliest roots lie in the 17th-century English insurance industry. In 1688 Edward Lloyd opened a coffeehouse near the London docks where seamen, captains, shipowners, maritime brokers and underwriters, and others from the maritime industry would gather to hear the latest news and discuss developments in shipping. By the end of the 1600s, Lloyd's Coffee House had evolved from an informal meeting place to a center of marine insurance where those looking to insure a ship or other maritime undertaking could find underwriters willing to take on risk. Eventually, Lloyd's became Lloyd's of London, one of the most famous and successful insurance exchanges in the world.
Although he lent his name to the burgeoning association of underwriters, Edward Lloyd remained a mere coffeehouse proprietor. He never became involved in the nascent insurance business. However, he did take pains to provide his clientele with the latest information assembled from his sources around the docks. In 1696 he began publishing Lloyd's News, which was devoted mainly to trade and maritime news. He ran afoul of the government in 1697, when the English Crown took offense to a brief item about a Quaker petition in the News.
With the abolition of the English advertisements tax in 1854, Lloyd's List began accepting advertising for the first time in its history. The company introduced a new publication in 1880, Lloyd's Weekly Shipping Index, that summarized the casualty reports and ship movements. By the end of the 19th century the weekly edition also included general news and had a circulation of 1 million, one of the highest in England.
Lloyd's List stopped running its ship movements and casualty reports during World War I and World War II for security reasons, although the reports continued to be published in limited, classified editions. After World War II, the company launched a new publication, Lloyd's Voyage Record, a weekly listing of all movements of ships currently at sea. Throughout its history, Lloyd's List was published by the insurers Lloyd's of London. In 1973 Lloyds formed a subsidiary, the Lloyds of London Press (LLP), to oversee its information gathering and publishing activities, including Lloyd's List.
LLP continued as a successful enterprise. By the 1990s it was the publisher of a roster of business periodicals (including Lloyd's Loading List, Catastrophe Reinsurance Newsletter, Lloyd's Law Reports, and Lloyd's Confidential Index), employed approximately 300 people, and had begun operating as an organizer of business conferences. In 1994 it reported a £4 million profit. The early 1990s, however, were a difficult period for the insurance industry, with losses totaling approximately £11 billion. In 1995 Lloyds of London, looking to raise desperately needed cash, put LLP on the sales block. Both the Economist Group and the publisher Reed Elsevier were among the bidders.
However, in December 1995 an LLP management team emerged as the successful buyer. Backed by the venture capitalist firm 3i, the group paid a reported £82.5 million for the publishing house. After the sale, management held a 25 percent interest, 3i held 30 percent, and two other venture capital firms held a combined 30 percent. The purchase price included all LLP print publications, its electronic information services, and its conference organizing arm. In addition, the new owners were able to license the Lloyds name to insure continuity in the titles, a deal that specified that royalties would be paid if certain revenue levels were reached.
With the sale, the company assumed a new name, LLP Group plc. By 1997 the first internet boom was in full swing and the firm began a push to make its products (particularly the venerable Lloyd's List) available in electronic form online. An initial stock offering was selected as the vehicle to raise funds. The offering was made on the London Stock Exchange in April 1995 with an opening price of 285 pence. On the eve of the offering, LLP's CEO David Gilbertson announced that the company would use the £137.5 million it hoped to raise on a series of acquisitions, mainly small information providers in the insurance and trade sectors.
Although the stock offering went off well, problems developed soon afterward. The Asian financial crisis struck, hitting the maritime shipping industry hard. This in turn hurt LLP, which counted hard-pressed marine companies among its most important customers. By the autumn of 1998 LLP's stock price had tumbled by almost half to 150 pence.
In November 1998 the LLP Group announced it would merge with another British company, the IBC Group plc, previously known as the International Business Communications Group. IBC, another information supplier known primarily for conference organization and financial publications, was founded in 1964 and listed on the London Stock Exchange in December 1985. Immediately after its listing, IBC went on an acquisition spree, beginning with the publisher Stonehart Group in June and following that with the purchase of two other publishing businesses. With offices in 16 countries, IBC boasted an international presence, along with 1997 annual revenues of £139.6 million, up nearly 15 percent over 1996.
The merger was structured as a takeover of IBC by the LLP Group. Nonetheless, IBC stockholders received 165 LLP shares for every 100 IBC shares and once the merger was completed, former LLP stockholders owned only 43 percent of the new company. David Gilbertson, the CEO of LLP, kept the same title at the new company, Informa Group plc. The chair of the new firm was Peter Rigby. Rigby was a fast-track executive who had begun his career as an accountant, joining Stonehart in 1983. He joined IBC after its takeover of Stonehart and was named its CEO in 1990 at the age of 33.
Analysts speculated that Informa would have annual sales of approximately £188 million annually, although Rigby and Gilbertson felt the synergies created by combining forces would enable the company to significantly boost revenues beyond that amount. They planned to accomplish this goal not through economies of scale but by expanding product offerings and using the firm's conference capabilities to create “constituencies” for its publishing products. The investor community approved the merger. With the announcement, LLP's stock price rallied out of its doldrums. The £315 million merger was completed in December 1998.
Almost immediately, Informa took the quick road to growth, launching a series of acquisitions that would continue almost unabated, through good times and bad, for the next five years. The most important targets for takeovers were those in areas where Informa's presence was weak, especially biomedical and pharmaceutical publishing. It also hoped to establish itself in the United States. It took a step in that direction in January 1999 with its first purchase for £2.1 million in cash and bonuses of Linkraven, a publisher of aviation magazines with a large base of customers in the United States.
Shortly thereafter, Informa acquired an Australian business newspaper, the Daily Commercial, from APN News & Media Ltd. for $10 million. By March 1999, most of Informa's titles were available in electronic form, which was a fast-growing profit center for the firm. The London stock market responded favorably to these developments, boosting Informa's stock price by more than 60 percent during the first four months following the merger. Success was helped by Informa's size, which qualified it for inclusion in the FTSE 250 index, bringing it to the attention of mutual fund managers who would have ignored LLP or IBC because they were too small.
In June 1999 Informa closed another major acquisition, Washington Policy and Analysis Inc., a consultancy firm and information provider in the field of energy and government energy policy that counted most large U.S. utility companies among its clients. Informa paid a reported $3 million and offered bonuses based on performance. The purchase was another important step in establishing Informa's foothold in the United States. Five months later the company paid £28 million to the British publisher Emap for a group of businesses that included 13 business magazines such as Containerisation International, International Freighting Weekly, Insurance Age, and Fishing News, seven exhibitions, and the Liner Shipping Network, an online service. The acquisition was Informa's largest to date.
Only a month later, Informa made yet another huge purchase when the Financial Times decided that Baskerville Communications, its newsletter division, no longer fit among its core activities. In the £13.5 million deal, Informa received 600 management reports, 60 newsletters, 24 Financial Times business directories, and 13 publications on the telecommunications sector. Additionally, the company was granted a license to use the Financial Times name for three months.
Informa's first year was a successful one. The company reported profits of £32.7 million, up 19 percent, as well as increases in conference registrations, especially among first-time attendees. The largest gains were in the telecommunications and media sectors. Informa's acquisitions in 2000 included Bysis Research Services, a U.S. provider of financial information used by the top-25 banks in the country, and several products from the British information company IIR Holdings.
In August the firm announced that it intended to spend an additional £50 million on acquisitions over the next half year. In early 2001 Informa began making good on that promise by acquiring for £30.3 million the financial product analyst firm MCM Group, whose services were sold in 57 countries to 2,000 institutions. A brief scare occurred in June 2000, when Informa's share price fell sharply after an announcement that delegate bookings for its upcoming telecommunications conferences had dropped. However, by 2001 the stock was up among the best performing British issues once again, reaching 552.5 pence in February despite continuing rumors of declining attendance, as well as the layoff of more than 150 staff at the same time.
Investor confidence in Informa was bolstered by the news that it had significantly strengthened its life sciences offerings. This occurred via the purchase for £21.8 million of Eaton Massachusetts Business Trust, the publisher of the respected journal BioTechniques. The acquisition of the successful publication also helped reduce Informa's unhealthy dependence on its telecommunications business at a time when telecom, after months of rapid growth, was showing signs of a slowdown.
Although Chair Peter Rigby insisted that the telecommunications sector was doing just fine (registrations for the company's flagship exhibition the GSM World Congress, which was put on by the telecommunications industry, were up 30 percent), other sectors were suffering. In April 2001, with a general decline in worldwide shipping, publication of the venerable Lloyd's List was cut back from six days a week to five and its staff reduced by 20. Two months later, after attendance at some of its telecommunications events fell by as much as 50 percent, Informa laid off another 150 employees, 5 percent of its telecommunications staff. In June difficulties grew as shares fell 50 percent. Amid uncertainty as to how the company would respond, the Guardian marveled that its shares had not fallen by more.
Informa continued to acquire promising companies, however, adding Evandale Publishing, a specialist in insurance and finance, to its roster in August 2001. Just as the firm announced that it had weathered the storm, a catastrophe of major proportions, both human and commercial, occurred. On September 11, terrorists flew two airliners into New York City's World Trade Center. The result was an immediate fall-off in air travel to the conferences that Informa had organized. With half of Informa's revenues derived from conferences, and U.S. delegates alone accounting for about 3.5 percent of all the company's annual revenues, declines in attendance of 15 percent to 20 percent were projected for some 3,400 conferences.
For a time, it was as bad as expected. A major telecommunications event in Barcelona saw attendance drop 75 percent from the previous year. In the wake of September 11, Informa eventually canceled about 200 conferences. To make matters worse, advertising at its maritime and financial publications was falling by 25 percent.
Early 2002 was a period of apprehension at Informa. By June, when two telecommunications conferences during the spring, the GSM World Congress and the SPEX, did much better than hoped, the worst times seemed to be past. During the dark days of 2001–02, Informa had continued to cut costs, which helped restore investor confidence. In March 2002 the company made news when it received a contract to arrange conferences in China and to provide financial information to China's Xinhua News Agency.
In September 2002, a year after the devastating terrorist attacks, Informa announced a new security service for U.S. ports and customs authorities. As 2002 ended, the firm's decision to develop its life sciences side proved to be a wise one. Strong growth in that division kept Informa's 2002 revenues respectable, if not as strong as earlier years. A lack of erosion in subscription levels at its various niche publications helped as well.
It was feared that the threat of war in Iraq in early 2003 might dampen conference attendance once again. That was not the case. After its experiences during the fall of 2001, the company eliminated several smaller, more marginal and less profitable events. Delegate numbers, for example, at the GSM World Congress fell somewhat, but increases in sponsorships offset those losses. However, the emergence of the SARS virus in Hong Kong hit Informa hard during the spring of 2003, when the company was forced to cancel all the Far East conferences it had organized for April 2003.
After acquiring Sparks Cos. Inc., an agricultural commodity research, consulting, and analysis firm, in 2003, Informa continued to grow during the middle of the decade. A major deal unfolded in 2004, when the company merged with the academic publisher Taylor & Francis. This was followed by the 2005 acquisition of IIR Holdings, which transformed Informa into the largest publicly owned event, training, and conference operator in the world. Heavily leveraged, the deal included a £311 million rights issue and £450 million in bank debt.
In 2006 Informa spent an estimated $71 million to acquire Laurence Erlbaum Associates, a behavioral sciences and education publisher. Through the deal, the company gained a business that published 200 books annually, along with some 100 journals. This was followed by a major deal in 2007, when Informa spent $994 million to acquire Datamonitor PLC, bolstering its presence in the area of market intelligence analysis.
As the new decade began, Informa expanded the international scope of its events business. In early 2010 it established the joint-venture Informa Saudi Arabia with The National Exhibition Company. Midway through the following year, Brasil Trade Shows Partners Participacoes S.A. was acquired for $133.4 million from the private equity firm DLJ South American Partners LP, giving it new trade shows in the furniture, food and beverage services, franchising, and manufacturing markets. Meanwhile, Ibratexpo Feiras e Eventos Ltda., a Brazilian tradeshow organizing firm, was also acquired.
Informa extended its reach into the United States during the early part of the decade. In late 2012 it struck a $62 million cash deal with the Kemmons Wilson Companies to acquire Zephyr Associates Inc., a developer of investment analysis software, with 800 clients worldwide. Additionally, Informa bolstered its exhibition offerings by snapping up MMPI Canada, a Canadian organizer of trade shows and conferences.
In mid-2013 Informa sold its corporate training operations to Providence Equity Partners in a deal worth up to $180 million. At that point the company was sharpening its focus on events and subscriptions. Operations involving emerging markets, especially with digital components, were high on Informa's radar screen. One example of this was the acquisition of the Chinese-based Baiwen, an organizer of beauty trade shows such as China Beauty Expo. The following year Informa combined its Telecoms and Media Research and Ovum divisions to form a single Ovum operation that focused on telecommunications industry research.
Growth in the company's Global Exhibitions Division continued into the second decade of the 21st century. For example, in 2015 the company spent $371 million to acquire Hanley Wood Exhibitions, a tradeshow operator in the United States. Informa also shored up its life sciences events business and expanded throughout North America by acquiring the U.S.-based FIME International Medical Exposition Inc., which specialized in medical technology trade shows and conferences. That same year the company sold its Datamonitor Consumer, Datamonitor Financial, Verdict, and MarketLine businesses to Progressive Digital Media Group PLC for $38.5 million.
In 2016 Informa spent $1.5 billion to acquire the exhibitions company Penton from MidOcean Partners and Wasserstein and Co., furthering its reach in the United States. The deal gave the company an additional 30 exhibitions in categories such as transportation, agriculture, infrastructure, and natural products and food, along with more than 100 print and digital business-to-business insight products and 20 digital subscription data brands. That same year Informa joined the ranks of the United Kingdom's largest publicly traded companies when it became part of the FTSE 100 index.
Informa's growth accelerated in 2018, when it spent $5.2 billion to acquire UBM plc, a conference organizer that had previously made its own attempt to acquire Informa. UBM had approximately 300 different events in its portfolio, including the Game Developers Conference and computer security events under the Black Hat label. Following the acquisition, Informa's position in the events sector was stronger than ever before, and the company remained a leader in areas such as business intelligence and academic publishing. Moving forward, Informa appeared to be position for continued growth in 2019 and beyond.
Gerald E. Brennan
Updated, Paul R. Greenland
Academic Publishing; Business Intelligence; Global Exhibitions; Global Support; Knowledge & Networking.
K. G. Saur Verlagl; Messe Düsseldorf GmbH; Messe München GmbH; Reed Exhibitions; SAP SE; Targit A/S.
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