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The buzz is back

by EN

Steven Monnington of Mayfield Mergers says the buzz is back on the show floor, and that means activity is emerging

It’s been truly wonderful to visit several exhibitions in September and early October and to see the interaction on the stands between exhibitors and visitors again. It’s still early days but the signs are good. Before going into this series of shows there were some concerns about how re-sign for 2022 would pan out given that a large number of exhibitors at the shows had originally booked for 2019 and Q1 2020 and had rolled over their bookings to 2021 – were they there because they had already paid or because they genuinely wanted or needed to do business face to face? 

We needn’t have worried – although the shows that I visited were generally a bit smaller than 2019, the halls were humming, business was being done and re-signs are reported to be very good. This optimism has also been apparent in our M&A activity. Over the last three months Mayfield towers has become increasingly busy, picking up again on transactions that were put on hold back in March 2020, working with independent organisers who were thinking about selling back in 2020 but were beaten to it by the lockdown and talking to entrepreneurs who have been approached by several larger organisers. At the last count we were talking to more than 20 prospective buyers for several businesses in a variety of sectors and countries. Most of these transactions should start to come through by the end of 2021 but in the meantime, there is already increasing activity.

Tarsus goes to China

Tarsus, who were acquired by Charterhouse Capital Partners in May 2019 for approximately £561m, were one of the few organisers who remained active in business development during the pandemic and this has resulted in a partnership with the Hong Kong Printed Circuit Association (HKPCA) to jointly produce the world’s leading printed circuit board event, the International Electronics Circuit Exhibition (Shenzhen) from 2022 onwards.  Mayfield acted as advisor on the investment – Tarsus has recently been focusing more on the fast growing and strategically important electronics sector in China acquiring a 70% stake of the organiser of Touch China in 2019 which will be co-located with the HKPCA show in December this year.

Easyfairs looks to pharma

Easyfairs added to their substantial portfolio of packaging shows (12 cities across 10 countries at the last count) with the acquisition of Connect in Pharma – a launch event created by Jerome Letu-Montois (ex GL Events) who set up MIND Exhibitions to launch the show in Geneva for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors and decided to fast-track the growth by working with Easyfairs. The first edition of the show will be in June 2022. 

Emerald state

In the USA, Emerald has acquired The Wedding School, a member-based wedding photography education platform created by photographer and educator Susan Stripling and Digital Product Studio. This follows two other acquisitions in 2021 – Sue Bryce Education, a member-based portrait photography education platform; and The Portrait Masters, an online photo education destination and conference. Emerald already organises PHOTOPLUS, the largest photography and imaging event in North America, and Rangefinder + WPPI, the daily content hub and annual event for portrait and wedding photographers. 

Murdoch looks to events

An interesting move by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK who have launched News Live, a standalone events business which will manage the existing events portfolios (which include RunFestRun, the CEO Summit, The Sun’s Who Cares Wins and The Times and Sunday Times Travel Awards) and will also  launch new events designed to connect their clients with audiences, leveraging News UK’s brand and expertise as a key part of their content portfolio and advertiser proposition. According to Dominic Carter, group chief commercial officer, “There’s still a lot of opportunity to grow and develop our existing events portfolio but we also want to focus on creating new events, partnerships and investments to grow this business into a substantial part of News UK in the future.”

Clarion activity in Africa

Finally, this month, Clarion Events has backed a management buyout of their events business in South Africa. David Ashdown, managing director of Clarion Events Africa for the last 8 years, becomes CEO of Vuka Group, the new name for the business. Clarion has operated in South Africa for more than 10 years and, with events such as ENLIT Africa and DRC Mining Week, has built market leading positions in the Energy and Mining sectors. The entire team moves from being a global Clarion to a more locally focussed business which they consider is more appropriate as exhibitions start to re-emerge from the pandemic.

While it’s not quite business as normal it’s great to talk to small businesses who have weathered the storm and are now looking forward to holding their next event – some have had to take a two-year break. However, we shouldn’t forget the hardship caused by the pandemic to the event suppliers who, unlike organisers, haven’t had the benefit of advance exhibitor deposits that were be rolled over. A big welcome back to the whole sector. 


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