The Global Media Weekly for executives and entrepreneurs

Trade shows on the block…

The recurrent theme of trade show companies reporting they have matched (and, in many cases, exceeded) 2019 pre-pandemic revenues is prompting owners to review their options. Many of the decisions to sell companies may be influenced by what happens next to the US-based, private equity-controlled Emerald and Questex, both of which are said to be involved in sale processes, and also the family-owned Easyfairs, of Belgium, which is believed to be ready to put itself up for sale.

The eventual prices of any or all of these companies will influence investment/ divestment decisions, especially by private equity. In that sense, 2024 may become the biggest year in recent memory for trade show M&A. It may be the year when (finally) relieved longterm pe investors can escape profitably, impatient independents can sell, and cash-rich companies can buy to consolidate. The only brake on activity may be the simple fact that, for all the rebound in profitability, the cost of capital has at least doubled in recent years. But there may still be plenty of deals.

This is our own assessment of what might (or might not) happen to 11 (mostly) trade show companies this year, with links to some of our previous content and comment (check the dates!):

Company/ linksParent2024 revenue*Context
ArcEagleTree£150mnB2B data-events-media not just trade shows. Launched in UK, 2020. Invested some £300mn (two-thirds in US). After acquisition spree, they may still spend to tip the balance more firmly towards trade shows.
ClarionBlackstone£500mnChina may be 30% of revenue and is firing again. But a 2023 refinancing has given Clarion breathing space. Could it still go to market by end-2024? (Owned since 2017)
CloserStillProvidence£200mnDiner or dinner in the next wave of M&A? Revenue x3 in four years. Maybe valued at £1bn (15x EBITDA). Owned since 2018.
DMGDMGT£150mnWould the now privately owned Daily Mail Group sell its Middle East energy/ construction events to fund any longed-for investment in Telegraph Media Group?
EasyfairsPrivate€220mnUpcoming process? 20% EBITDA margin. Belgium, Netherlands and Sweden. Operates 110 events and eight venues.
EmeraldOnex$440mnListed company but Onex is a 90.7% shareholder (Owned since 2013. IPO in 2017). $600mn enterprise value.
HyveProvidence/ Searchlight£200mnAlmost 12 months since the de-listing buyout. Assume that Hyve will be buying in 2024. It still covets the events of the newly slimmed-down Ascential PLC
Informa MarketsListed (Informa)£1.7bnTrade shows £1.7bn – 49% of company revenue and 54% of the profit. Market leader and a ready buyer. Do they still dream about an RX merger?
QuestexMidOcean$120mn60% increase in revenue, x3 in profit and almost doubled margin since 2019. Maybe a valuation of £550m (13x EBITDA) v $180mn in 2018 (when acquired).
RXListed (RELX)£1.3bnStrong recovery with margins now 30%+. Who knows whether it will be the diner, dinner or mere spectator in the next round of M&A?
TerrapinnPrivate$125mnUK/Australia-based. Has increased revenue by 50% in four years. $22mn EBITDA. Ready for sale?
*Our estimates