Tarsus Group, the UK-based trade show organiser last year bounced back to 75% of its pre-pandemic revenue despite the virtual absence of earnings from China which “normally” accounts for at least 20% of the company.
The formerly listed company was launched by former Blenheim Exhibitions chief Neville Buch in 1998, IPOd in 2007, and was acquired by Charterhouse Capital in 2019 for some $700m. It is one of the world’s top 20 exhibition groups and organises some 160 events, principally across aerospace, labels print and packaging, travel, medical, and textiles. Its major brands include: Dubai Air Show, Labelexpo, GreenTech, Space Tech Expo, and PainWeek. Douglas Emslie, who was formerly with Blenheim and UBM, has been CEO since the start.
Its private equity owner might have been jolted by the pandemic which paralysed the exhibitions industry and much else just six months after it completed the acquisition of Tarsus. But, during the following 18 months, it funded a total of at least 14 acquisitions and JV investments for a total of $100m. It was particularly active in China which will eventually account for some 25% of revenue (2019: 10%). That is only one element of Tarsus’ strategic distinctiveness. Once China re-opens fully (expected in second-half 2023), Tarsus will be concentrated heavily in the US/ Mexico, the Middle East, and China.
It continues to be notably absent from the UK and doesn’t intend to change that. Other takeaways from our conversation with the Tarsus CEO this week:
- Given the expected recovery of China this year and the buoyancy of trade shows in the US, these countries (where the exhibitions are principally domestic events) will contrast with, say, Germany which is host to many international exhibitions and may, therefore, take longer to recover.
- One effect of the pandemic, especially in the US, is that visitors are being more selective about events and are increasingly likely to favour locations 1) where they can combine business and leisure travel and 2) Where there are no security fears or extensive homelessness. Likely winners: Las Vegas and Florida. Possible losers: Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- Dubai is one of the most business-friendly centres for exhibition organisers and others. It reopened quickly and safely after the pandemic. Tarsus – alongside Informa, the Daily Mail Group and the Dubai World Trade Center itself – is one of Dubai’s leading trade show organisers. The recent scrapping of the 30% tax on alcohol may be good for business!
- Saudi Arabia is pitching hard to increase its share of exhibitions. Witness Informa’s highly successful LEAP, the region’s largest IT event which takes place for the second time next month.
- Will Dubai and Saudi Arabia become acquirers of exhibition companies around the world?