Relx postpones nine China exhibitions, wider virus impact unclear

LONDON (Reuters) - European information group Relx REL.L said it could not yet predict how coronavirus would hit its exhibitions business in China after it was forced to reschedule nine events in the country because of the outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a face mask walks in a subway station, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Beijing, China February 12, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

In a highly fragmented market, Relx is the world’s second biggest provider of events and exhibitions, hosting more than 500 in almost 30 countries that attract more than 7 million people each year.

While the exhibitions division is Relx’s smallest, representing 16% of total revenue, it is a dependable performer. China makes up 5% of the exhibitions division.

“The extent to which the novel coronavirus outbreak will impact our business in China, or other regions, remains uncertain,” it said.

More than 1,300 people have died from coronavirus since the pathogen was identified in December, while about 60,000 people are confirmed to have the virus.

The outbreak has rattled financial markets, forced the suspension of flights and on Wednesday led to the cancellation of Mobile World Congress, one of the world’s biggest tech and telecom conferences that was due to be held in Barcelona later this month.

Relx said it had rescheduled nine events so far in China, out of the roughly 45 it hosts there each year.

The company has also incurred challenges in Japan where the Olympic Games has reduced the number of venues that are available.

Beyond exhibitions, Relx said the main business trends in the early part of 2020 were in line with last year as it reported organic revenue growth of 4%, in line with its recent average.

After completing a 600 million pound ($777 million) share buyback in 2019, it said it would complete a total of 400 million pounds in 2020 after it secured two acquisitions.

Previously known as Reed Elsevier, Relx has become one of the most reliable performers on the FTSE 100 Index after it moved from a media group publishing print-based titles to one focused on databases and analytical tools.

With a market value of 39 billion pounds ($51 billion), Relx sits in the top 15 of Britain’s largest listed companies, employing more than 30,000 employees around the world.

Also on Thursday, Chairman Anthony Harwood announced his intention to retire.

Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Sarah Young, James Davey and Barbara Lewis