RBI and REC Under Profit Pressure
Reed Elsevier held its AGM last week. In summary, the management bragged that 80% of their profits came from the professional information business which, whilst not immune to the downturn is nevertheless pretty robust.
By contrast the marketing driven businesses, RBI and Reed Exhibitions are having a very rough time indeed. These are direct quotes from the Interim Management Statement;
Reed Exhibitions: Budget pressures on promotional expenditure are leading to reduced exhibition space sales and a decline in paying delegates at certain shows. Attendances are showing encouraging resilience. The revenue pressures, together with the net cycling out of biennial shows this year, will result in revenue decline and lower adjusted operated margin against an exceptional year in 2008. Of most significance to date are the reductions in size of events in the property and retail sectors. The cycling out of biennial shows will particularly affect first half comparisons.
Reed Business Information: Advertising markets are being significantly impacted by the global economic downturn across geographies and sectors. Subscriptions and other user revenues, which now account for over 50% of the business, remain relatively robust. In this difficult environment, the focus in RBI is on right sizing the cost base to match reduced revenue expectations. Adjusted operating margins will be lower, as the impact of the revenue decline can be mitigated only in part by the significant cost savings from restructuring and other cost actions.
The last sentence is interesting isn't it? Trading is so bad that not even the cost cuts can offset the decline. What if it turns out to be true, that this year is not the nadir of the downturn for business media, but the best year we are going to see fro some time to come. B2B blogger, Neil Thackray has argued that a new model is required if the industry is to escape from its current malaise. It looks like Reed Elsevier may be looking at hard financial evidence that he is right.
New Reed CEO Ian Smith will already be forming a view about what to do. The failed sale process means that even though the RBI business is small it will be an obvious boil on an otherwise alabaster skinned face. Until it is lanced it will ooze pus at every presentation to analysts.