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To say that last year was a monumental one for Informa Exhibitions, which is led by CEO Charlie McCurdy, would be quite an understatement.
2018 marked the largest mergers and acquisitions deal in history, with Informa buying fellow U.K.-based exhibition company, UBM, for a whopping $5.2 billion.
Now that the deal has been closed for several months, TSNN sat down with McCurdy to talk through what’s next and some overall exhibition market trends.
The Informa/UBM deal was completed in June, and McCurdy said there was an accelerated plan put in place immediately to integrate the two companies.
He added that the integration plan was successful, and “[we are going] into 2019 as the business we want to be, running it the way we want to run it.”
As far as activity in the past year of the overall M&A market in the exhibition industry, he said, “It would be hard to top 2018 and 2019 in transactions completed. It’s been a pretty hectic year, [but] there are probably a few more in the pipeline.”
Besides acquiring companies, McCurdy said another area of focus for Informa was growing organically in different areas worldwide.
“We’ve been very focused this year on expanding vertical markets or sectors in multinational, borderless markets,” he added.
McCurdy said one fast-growing area that they saw was in healthcare, especially in pharma and medical equipment. “[It’s] some of our biggest activity around the world,” he added, as well as the finished foods sector. “We’re quite excited about these areas.”
A lot of the company’s focus going forward as far as global areas, McCurdy said, would be in Asia and North America.
“We do see healthy growth represented in those two regions,” he added.
The trade show industry, and global economy, is not without its current challenges though, such as the trade war between the U.S. and China.
“It’s a very complicated set of circumstance,” McCurdy said of the dueling tariffs being imposed by each country. He added that right now, any possible negative impact on Informa’s business was being offset by positive exchange rates.
Looking into the future, Informa will continue to focus on finding and keeping valuable talent, McCurdy said.
“At Informa, we offer opportunities for personal and professional growth,” he added. “We help them find paths for advancement.”
McCurdy said another area of focus within the company was on digital.
“It’s something the industry has talked about for quite a few years now,” he added.
At Informa, McCurdy said there were two digital elements they were working on, the first being the delivery and adaption of digital tools to support sales, marketing, data management, etc. The second digital element was resources attendees can utilize for product services discovery.
Beyond M&A, organic growth, acquiring and maintaining talent, and managing their ever-growing digital tools, McCurdy hasn’t lost sight of the most important aspect of a global exhibition company overall: “Putting on an actual ‘show’ is the art of being a show organizer,” he said. “It’s beyond just selling concrete.”