Peter Hall, EMEA President at Informa, speaks to Paul Colston, editor of Exhibition World, and sheds some light on one of the biggest deals of the year – the acquisition of UBM by Informa.
You were planning for the combination with UBM, presumably, for a while. Tell us a bit about that early process and how the preparatory work measured up to the reality once you were able to see the UBM operation from the inside?
There has always been the perception of an alignment between Informa and UBM due to similarities between how the companies operate.
You have two global, high-performing exhibitions portfolios, housed within a broader international information services Group in Informa’s case, and when the reality of the combination took root in January of 2018 and we learned more about each other’s businesses and teams, the more confident we were that the combination would result in the creation of the leading events organiser in the world.
Tell us about the differing corporate cultures and how you have been moving from a geographical organisation, favoured by UBM, to a more vertical structure of management a la Informa?
With any combination of this size, bringing together cultures is a delicate and important process. One of the main strengths of this combination that was immediately apparent was that both businesses have similar goals, ambitions, and most importantly are guided by a customer-first approach.
People in the global exhibitions industry are very passionate about what they do and bringing compelling experiences to attendees is shared at both organisations. This combination is going to allow us to optimise our customer-first approach, provide greater opportunities for our colleagues and help grow our business globally.
As we continue to work on the integration of our two organisations, our goal is to create an operating model that will benefit our combined customers and market verticals.
Which shows do you expect to be your flagships in the future and which shows could be consolidated or closed?
Our flagship EMEA events, such as Arab Health, CPhI Worldwide, Monaco Yacht Show, Vitafoods Europe, Middle East Electricity, IFSEC and Cityscape Global are still growing and are benefitting from the additional insight and support that comes with the combined business.
There are several complementing portfolios where we can collaborate to create additional value for our customers, including opportunities in agriculture, healthcare, energy, fashion and beauty. The real value will come from hundreds of smaller collaborative efforts rather than a handful of larger ones.
Wherever we see value, we are exploring opportunities to either bolster a specific show that may have a more established counterpart in the region through data, knowledge and industry insight sharing, or look at combining the two products to create an overall stronger brand offering for our customers.
What stages still need to occur before you have achieved a single structure you are looking for?
Informa is following a phased, one-year combination programme called the Accelerated Integration Plan (AIP). One of our aims in Exhibitions has been to enter 2019 with fully combined business structures and we’re on track with that.
Can we expect further acquisitions to follow or disposals?
Both Informa and UBM have a well-established practice of adding value to their events portfolios through acquisitions, and we’ll continue to look at opportunities where they align to our key markets.
What trends are you anticipating in the global exhibitions business and how are you preparing to meet them?
Two areas we are focusing on, which are also on-going trends, are data/digital and customer experience. We know that our clients are having their own business models changed by the growth of digital and data, and they are reacting by investing more time, money and marketing spend in to digital and data channels.
As our exhibitors become more digitally savvy, we need to be able to answer that. We are in a unique position to create better digital solutions for our customers because of the types of events that we run, and market insight we get from those events which in nature create pre-qualified buy and sell groups. That’s why exhibitions as a business has always been so successful, because you are creating that perfect scenario for buyers are sellers to do real business, and with that focus in mind we’re able to create quite powerful digital marketing services.
What advice would you pass on to a young events professional starting out in exhibitions today?
Make sure you are always customer focused, work hard and embrace change. We work in a constantly evolving industry, so you should always attempt to exceed expectations.
How do you relax out of office hours?
Time best spent for me outside of the office is with my family. My role requires me to do a lot of travelling, so having such a supportive wife at home is something I will never take for granted. I have a son (twelve years old) and daughter ( nine years old) who are both crazy about rugby, so watching them play on the weekends is something I look forward to.
Among the many benefits of living in Dubai, the weather has to be one of the best attributes. One of the main ways I switch off is kite surfing. I started taking lessons here in Dubai about three years ago.
About Peter Hall
Peter Hall joined Informa Exhibitions in 2000 and held various senior positions across the business before relocating to Dubai in 2014.
As President of Informa Exhibitions’ EMEA business, he is responsible for overseeing the growth and success of all Informa’s exhibitions operations out of Dubai on a portfolio of 44 B2B and 19 B2C events annually. Operating within 19 countries, the industry verticals which fall under Hall’s remit are Life Sciences and Consumer in Dubai and Industrial in the UK.
Informa Exhibitions also has a number of regional offices in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Turkey, which he oversees and advises on growth opportunities and strategies.
Peter is a graduate of the University of Leeds with a 1st Class honours degree in Mechanical Engineering; he also holds an MBA from Cranfield School of Management.