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Ascential Deliver Strong growth in revenue

Ascential plc (LON:ASCL), the specialist information, data and analytics company, today announced its results for the year ended 31 December 2019.

Operational highlights

  • Good delivery against our four key priorities for 2019:
  • Focus on execution: Exceptional performances in Flywheel Digital and WGSN.
  • Edge: Continuing progress on the integration of Edge due to complete in H1 2020, significant Coca-Cola contract win and encouraging trading in early 2020.
  • Marketing segment growth.
  • Ascential operating model rolled out.
  • Organic growth across all segments:
  • Product Design: Organic revenue growth of 8% and successful launch of WGSN Beauty.
  • Marketing: Organic revenue growth of 9%.
  • Sales: Organic revenue growth of 3% (Proforma 11%) with exceptional growth in Flywheel Digital ahead of plan and modest growth in Edge and Money20/20. Digital Commerce sub-segment revenues grew by 9% on an Organic basis and 21% on a Proforma basis.
  • Built Environment and Policy: 5% Organic revenue growth and expanded margins.
  • Acquisition of eCommerce analytics business Yimian in China.

Financial highlights

  • Revenue of £416.2m (2018: £348.5m).
  • Reported growth of 19.4%. Growth of 6.4% on an Organic basis, 9.0% on a Proforma basis.
  • Adjusted EBITDA of £128.5m (2018: £108.4m).
  • Reported growth of 18.5%. Growth of 6.2% on an Organic basis, 8.5% on a Proforma basis.
  • Margin of 30.9% (2018: 31.1%).
  • Adjusted operating profit of £105.8m (2018: £92.2m). Reported operating profit of £19.9m reduced versus the prior year (2018: £41.4m) due to a £36.9m charge for deferred consideration for Flywheel Digital following its exceptional performance in 2019.
  • Strong growth in earnings per share: Adjusted diluted EPS of 18.5p up 20.9% (2018: 15.3p).
  • Continued good cash generation: Operating cash flow conversion of 88% (2018: 106%), resulting in closing net debt leverage of 1.4x (December 2018: 1.1x) allowing headroom for continued investment in organic growth, select acquisitions and shareholder returns.
  • Recommended final dividend of 4.0p, making a total dividend of 5.8p for the year (2018: 5.8p) with the prior year benefiting from earnings from discontinued operations.
  • Successful refinancing executed shortly after the year end with expanded £450m revolving credit facility, replacing our term loans.
  • Share repurchase programme announced of up to £120m commencing shortly.

Duncan Painter, Ascential Chief Executive Officer, commented:

“2019 was a satisfying and successful year for Ascential. We advanced our operating model to ensure our products further align with our customers’ needs in fast paced growth markets and this was reflected in organic growth across all of our segments. We were particularly pleased with the strength of growth of the Marketing Segment and exceptional performances from WGSN and Flywheel Digital.

Looking forward, we believe we are well positioned to continue to drive strong performance in our scaled and structurally growing markets. In 2020, we expect to deliver strong Organic growth with Group revenue in the range of £425m-£455m (using current exchange rates) and adjusted EBITDA margins of between 30% and 32%.”

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