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Share Price: 394.60
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Change: 6.60 (1.70%)
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Open: 392.40
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Ascential to pay no 2020 dividend amid sharp revenue, earnings fall

Mon, 15th Mar 2021 09:11

(Alliance News) - Ascential PLC on Monday said its 2020 performance demonstrated "resilience" in a "challenging" backdrop as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, though its pretax loss still widened and revenue fell.

The FTSE 250-listed business-to-business media and events firm reported a pretax loss of GBP184.3 million in 2020 compared to a loss of GBP7.9 million in 2019.

Total revenue for 2020 fell 31% to GBP301.1 million from GBP416.2 million including discontinued operations. This was in line with expectations of between GBP298 million and GBP302 million, Ascential said, and above market consensus of GBP297 million.

Ascential achieved adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of GBP50.0 million including discontinued operations in 2020, down 61% from GBP128.5 million in 2019. This again was in line with expectations of between GBP48 million and GBP52 million, and above consensus of GBP43 million, the company said.

These decreases were partially driven by Ascential's Marketing unit revenue falling by 60% and Retail & Financial Services revenue dropping by 78%. Its Digital Commerce unit, however, saw revenue grow 32% to GBP103.1 million.

The company decided against dividends payments in 2020, although did pay 1.8 pence in 2019. It said it will keep shareholder payouts under review.

Shares in Ascential were down 3.1% at 359.60p in London early Monday.

Chief Executive Duncan Painter said: "We were already operating in a highly digital world, and the fundamental shift towards online channels has only accelerated since the pandemic. This further drives demand for our data-driven insights in the three ways we support customers: creating the right products, maximising their marketing impact, and optimising their trading performance on e-commerce platforms. Digital Commerce is now our largest and fastest growing segment and is well placed to benefit from the structural gains arising from the acceleration in e-commerce adoption. While our two marquee events are ready for a recovery as conditions allow, the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions continue to influence the timing of a return to maximum participation at venues."

Looking ahead, Ascential said 2021 started "well with strong growth" in revenue and profits for the first two months of the year, giving "confidence of further good progress in the year ahead."

"While the speed of vaccine deployment and easing of government restrictions will heavily influence the near-term financial success of our event products, we have high levels of confidence in our digital subscriptions and platforms products and, after double-digit growth in 2020, expect these revenue streams to continue to grow well in the coming year," said Painter.

By Zoe Wickens; zoewickens@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2021 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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