Events group Informa has said trading in the first quarter was broadly as anticipated, with a mixed performance across the divisions resulting in an organic revenue decline of 3.6 per cent.
The company blamed the heavy impact of the timing differences which occurred as a result of the early Easter, as well as the drag from product pruning completed in 2012, which it said accounted for almost a quarter of the decline.
Peter Rigby, Chief Executive said: "Trading in the new financial year has been broadly as expected and while the economic backdrop continues to provide little support, we remain on track to meet our full year targets. Our Academic and Large Event businesses have performed particularly well in the early months and while trading has been mixed in some other areas, we expect trends to continue to improve through the year.
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"Our strategic focus is on continuing to build our digital subscription base and Large Event portfolio while further expanding our presence in emerging markets, improving the underlying quality of earnings and enhancing the visibility and strength of our cash flows. We continue to make progress on all these objectives."
Mixed performance across divisionsDivisionally, Academic Information made a 'good' start to the year, the firm said, posting organic growth of 2.6%. Progres was made in journal renewals and related cash collection, on the Books side of the business, electronic sales have been notably strong in the early months of the year. Overall, usage of its content continued togrow by a double digit percentage year-on-year, it added.
In Professional & Commercial Information, first quarter revenue fell 5.5%, although the company expects underlying growth trends to improve progressively throughout the year as comparables ease, new product momentum builds and the benefits of product rationalisation flow through.
In a statement the company said of the division's performance: "While Informa Financial Information continues to operate in a challenging end-market, we are tentatively encouraged by the first few months of the year, with some early signs of improving trends. The integration of Zephyr Associates since its acquisition in October has proceeded smoothly and the first enhanced Zephyr/IIS products were recently launched into the market.
"Within Informa Business Information, the Pharma segment remains difficult, with customers continuing to manage costs very tightly, often through centralised procurement teams. This is making new subscriber additions more challenging to secure and the renewal process for existing subscribers more drawn out, but we take some encouragement from recent signs of improvement across certain product lines such as Citeline."
Its third division, Events and Training, suffered an organic revenue decline of 5.8% - although adjusting for timing differences it would have been positive, despite further reductions in small event volumes.
The group said the early Easter this year had a 'marked impact', with a number of events being re-scheduled into the second quarter to avoid the holiday season.
"These timing differences dragged Events organic growth into negative territory across the first quarter but we are forecasting strong growth in the second quarter as these movements unwind," the group said.
"Our Large Events have continued to perform strongly, with first quarter like-for-like growth in high single digits and strong re-bookings for 2014. The Middle East remains particularly buoyant. Across our small conference portfolio, Europe remains the weak spot and we continue to cut event volumes here, in countries where we see little scope for near-term recovery."
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