Ascential plc A year of significant strategic progress

Ascential PLC

Ascential plc (LON:ASCL), the global, specialist information company, today announces results for the year ended 31 December 2018 in line with expectations.

A year of significant strategic progress

· Business model now in place to enable customers to navigate the digital economy.

– Clear strategic focus on the consumer value chain and high quality recurring revenue streams.

– Operating model reflects customer needs: Product Design, Marketing and Sales.

– Sale of Exhibitions and allocation of capital towards high-growth acquisitions.

· Segments performing in line with expectations.

– Product Design: growth from recently launched products and segment expansion.

– Marketing: a year of transition, with successful re-set of Cannes Lions and MediaLink realigned to long term brand relationships.

– Sales: continued strong performances from Money20/20, Edge and Flywheel Digital.

· Investment in brands to support long-term sustainable growth.

– Launches of Money20/20 Asia and China to establish leading global fintech platform.

– Formation of Edge: specialist ecommerce analytics and advisory offering.

Financial highlights

· Strong revenue growth on continuing operations to £348.5m (2017: £292.9m).

– Reported growth of 19.0%.

– Growth of 6.3% on an Organic basis, 9.6% on a Proforma basis.

– Key drivers of Proforma growth were the Sales segment (30%) and Product Design segment (7%).

· Solid Adjusted EBITDA growth to £101.8m (2017: £94.7m).

– Reported growth of 7.5%.

– Growth of 3.8% on an Organic basis, 12.5% on a Proforma basis.

– Margin at 29.2% (2017: 32.3%) with impact of higher growth acquired businesses in investment phase, partly offset by a net positive impact from operational leverage.

· Reported operating profit from continuing operations of £40.2m (2017: £31.3m) up 28.4%.

· Further strong growth in earnings per share with Adjusted diluted EPS on continuing operations of 15.3p up 12.5% (2017: 13.6p) and Reported diluted EPS on total operations of 51.4p (2017: 4.4p).

· Continued focused capital allocation – disposal of Exhibitions and strong cash generation resulting in closing net debt leverage of 1.1x (2017: 2.3x) after continued investment in the business and M&A. Strong operating cash flow conversion on continuing operations of 105% (2017: 104%).

· Recommended final dividend of 3.9p, making a total dividend of 5.8p for the year (2017: 5.6p) up 3.6%.

Duncan Painter, Chief Executive Officer, commented:

“2018 was an important year for Ascential. We delivered another year of strong growth, reflecting the value that customers place on our critical information. We are now at an advanced stage of our multi-year strategy to support global brands as they navigate fast-paced change in the digital commerce economy. Our evolution in 2018 was supported by three high-growth acquisitions, partially reallocating the proceeds of the Exhibitions business.

Our focus has now shifted to integrating and investing in our unique information services to continue to give our global customer base access to the critical information they need. We have taken action to return our Marketing segment to growth in 2019, following the successful re-set of Cannes Lions in 2018, and the realignment of MediaLink to focus on large brand reviews and projects. We remain well placed to enhance our market leadership in 2019 and to pursue our medium-term target of double-digit growth.”

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