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RELX, the global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools, reports interim results for the six months to 30 June 2020.
Commenting on the results, Sir Anthony Habgood, Chair, said:
“Despite the challenging environment, RELX has continued to pursue its strategic priorities successfully. Although earnings per share progress has been impacted by COVID-19 related disruption to our exhibitions business, we have announced an unchanged interim dividend of 13.6p reflecting the resilience of our three largest business areas and our strong financial position and cash flow. We also continued to build on our strong ESG performance, with Elsevier in particular supporting the scientific and medical response to COVID-19 with free downloads from the Elsevier Novel Coronavirus Information Centre now exceeding 100 million.”
Chief Executive Officer, Erik Engstrom, commented:
“Our first priority during the COVID-19 pandemic remains the health and safety of our colleagues, our customers, and the wider community in which we operate, whilst continuing to provide services to our customers.”
“Our three largest business areas continued to perform well in the first half, delivering good growth in electronic revenues with product and service quality being maintained at high levels. Exhibitions has responded well to a challenging environment, and remains focused on serving its customers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. At the peak of the pandemic nearly all of our offices were closed and 97% of our 33,000 employees in over 40 countries were working remotely. We have now opened nearly half of our offices, and around 50% of our employees have the option to come into the office on a regular basis.”
“Our longer term strategic priority is unchanged: the organic development of increasingly sophisticated information-based analytics and decision tools that deliver enhanced value to our customers, supplemented by selective acquisitions of targeted data, analytics and exhibition assets that support our organic growth strategies.”
OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW
Revenue £3,501m (£3,888m) -10%: Our three largest business areas, STM, Risk & Business Analytics and Legal, which together accounted for 84% of revenue and 87% of adjusted operating profit in full year 2019, reported combined first half revenue of £3,300m (£3,204m). All three business areas continued to deliver underlying revenue growth (see page 4). Electronic revenue, which accounted for 92% of the total in the first half for these three business areas, saw underlying growth of +3% to +4%. Print revenue, 8% of the total, saw steeper than historical underlying declines at -17% to -19% impacted by COVID-19 related distribution challenges.
The Exhibitions business, which accounted for 16% of revenue and 13% of adjusted operating profit in full year 2019, was significantly impacted by COVID-19 in the first half of 2020, with revenue of £201m (£684m). Given the extent of event postponements and cancellations, underlying measures are not meaningful for Exhibitions, and hence not for the group as a whole.
Adjusted operating profit £939m (£1,240m) -24%: Our three largest business areas reported combined first half adjusted operating profit of £1,056m (£1,009m) with all three delivering underlying growth. Exhibitions moved into a loss for the first half of £117m (£231m profit).
Reported operating profit £747m (£1,048m) -29%: Reported operating profit includes amortisation of acquired intangible assets of £164m (£147m) and acquisition-related costs of £26m (£38m).
Interest and tax: Adjusted net interest expense was £81m (£97m) with the reduction reflecting lower average interest rates on borrowings. The adjusted tax charge was £151m (£248m) giving an adjusted effective tax rate of 17.6% (21.7%) with the lower tax rate in the period due to some one-off and historical credits. Reported net interest expense was £87m (£103m), and the reported tax charge was £124m (£223m).
Adjusted EPS 37.0p (45.9p) -19%
Reported EPS 28.4p (39.9p) -29%: Reported EPS includes a credit for gains on disposals and other non-operating items of £6m (£57m).
Dividend: We have announced an interim dividend of 13.6p (13.6p), unchanged from the prior year.
Net debt/EBITDA 3.2x (2.6x) including leases and pensions: Net debt, including leases, was £7.5bn (£6.6bn) at 30 June 2020. Excluding leases and pensions, net debt/EBITDA was 2.8x (2.3x). The increase in leverage ratios primarily reflects the impact of COVID-19 on Exhibitions in the first half. The adjusted cash flow conversion rate was 103% (94%). Cash conversion rates in the three largest business areas were in line with recent years. In the first half we issued €2bn and $750m of long-term bonds.
Portfolio development: In the first half of 2020 we completed seven acquisitions of content, data analytics and exhibition assets for a total consideration of £720m, and disposed of a number of small assets for a total of £12m.
Share buybacks: As previously announced, the share buyback for 2020 was suspended in April after £150m had been spent. The Board does not intend to resume the programme this year.
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) recognition: RELX has maintained an AAA rating for ESG with MSCI for four consecutive years, and in April 2020 RELX improved its position in the Sustainalytics ESG rankings with first place in our industry sector, and 17th place in the total universe of over 12,000 companies ranked.
Colin Tennant (Investors)
+44 (0)20 7166 5751
Paul Abrahams (Media)
+44 (0)20 7166 5724
DISCLAIMER REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This announcement contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the US Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the US Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results or outcomes of RELX PLC (together with its subsidiaries, “RELX”, “we” or “our”) to differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statement. We consider any statements that are not historical facts to be “forward-looking statements”. The terms “outlook”, “estimate”, “forecast”, “project”, “plan”, “intend”, “expect”, “should”, “will”, “believe”, “trends” and similar expressions may indicate a forward-looking statement. Important factors that could cause actual results or outcomes to differ materially from estimates or forecasts contained in the forward-looking statements include, among others: current and future economic, political and market forces; the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other pandemics or epidemics; changes in law and legal interpretations affecting RELX intellectual property rights and internet communications; regulatory and other changes regarding the collection, transfer or use of third-party content and data; changes in the payment model for our products; demand for RELX products and services and competitive factors in the industries in which RELX operates; ability to realise the future anticipated benefits of acquisitions; significant failure or interruption of our systems; exhibitors’ and attendees’ ability and desire to attend face-to-face events and availability of event venues; compromises of our data security systems or other unauthorised access to our databases; legislative, fiscal, tax and regulatory developments and political risks; exchange rate fluctuations; and other risks referenced from time to time in the filings of RELX PLC with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this announcement. Except as may be required by law, we undertake no obligation to publicly update or release any revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this announcement or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.