Informa Full-Year Profit Surge

Academic and business publisher Informa said on Wednesday trading in its three core business units was running ahead of last year as it posted a 53% rise in its adjusted 2006 pretax profit.

The company also announced Peter Rigby had been appointed as chairman with David Gilbertson taking up the chief executive post. The changes will take effect at the annual shareholders' meeting on May 15.

Rigby is succeeding Richard Hooper who is retiring, while Gilbertson is currently managing director.

Informa's pretax profit prior to exceptional charges and amortisation in the year to end-December rose to 178.1 million pounds ($343.6 million) from 115.4 million pounds the previous year, while revenue climbed 42% to 1.04 billion pounds.

This compares with 12 analysts' average pretax profit forecast of 176.70 million pounds , inside a 173.90 million to 183.80 million pound range, according to Reuters Estimates.

The average forecast for revenue was 1.03 billion pounds, within a 976.30 million to 1.06 billion pound range.

Adjusted and diluted earnings per share was 31.1 pence with the dividend up 40% at 12.2 pence. The EPS and dividend were forecast at 31.2 pence and 10.5p respectively.

ABN AMRO said Informa's shares, which are trading on a forecast price-to-earnings multiple of 14.8, looked cheap against its peer group, given strong underlying momentum and an attractive business mix. ABN maintained its "add" rating.

European rivals include businesses such as United Business Media, Reed Elsevier and Wolters Kluwer as well as Thomson Corp in Canada.

Rigby and Gilbertson said in a joint statement all Informa's key markets had good growth in 2006, notably telecoms and media, maritime, trade and transport and its newly integrated life sciences events business.

"Publishing is performing well and ahead of expectations. Our events and Performance Improvement (PI) businesses continue to enjoy the double digit revenue growth which they achieved in 2006," they said.

Shares in Informa were down 1.6 percent in early trading, although the retreat was in line with a fall in the broader European media sector and came as London's FTSE 100 index and FTSE 250 were down 1.5 and 2.2% respectively.

Informa's shares have outperformed the FTSE media index by around 23% over the past year, underpinned by bid speculation last year. The company has a market value of around 2.4 billion pounds.

Last November, Informa rejected a 2.7 billion pound offer from Germany's Springer Science & Business Media saying it significantly undervalued the London-based company.

"We haven't got any bid imminent. It would be unusual if we didn't make some bolt-on acquisitions in 2007 because that is what has typically been part of our overall strategy," Rigby told reporters in a conference call following the results.

Numis Securities analysts, maintained their "add" rating, saying Informa was attractive given its fundamental merits with the unresolved Springer situation adding "speculative appeal".

Informa's revenues are split roughly equally between academic and scientific, professional and commercial business.

Informa is the world's largest publicly owned organiser of conferences and courses and runs more than 10,000 events annually, including the Super Return private equity conference held in Frankfurt late last month.

Its publishing brands include Lloyd's List for the maritime industry and Scrip which covers the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

Its performance improvement group of companies such as Huthwaite and ESI International handle consulting, assessment via training and mentoring for corporate clients.

Informa was created from the merger of IBC Group and LLP Group in late 1998, although its history dates back nearly 300 years when the first issue of the maritime publication Lloyd's List was posted on the wall of Edward Lloyd's City of London coffee shop in 1734.