Irish-led sports events supplier ‘cautiously’ optimistic after Covid sales slump

Arena group provides facilities for events such as Wimbledon

Coco Gauff (left) and Caty McNally in action during their ladies’ doubles third round Wimbledon match on Tuesday. Arena Events Group has supplied seating structures for the tennis tournament. Photograph: PA

Coco Gauff (left) and Caty McNally in action during their ladies’ doubles third round Wimbledon match on Tuesday. Arena Events Group has supplied seating structures for the tennis tournament. Photograph: PA

 

An Irish chief executive of a supplier of facilities for major sporting occasions, such as the Wimbledon tennis championships, said that he is “cautiously optimistic” about a recovery in business after Covid-19 resulted in a 55 per cent annual sales slump.

London-listed Arena Events Group, which provides everything from seating and furniture at weddings to VIP hospitality structures for major golf tournaments, reported on Wednesday that its sales fell to £71.6 million (€83.6 million) for the year to March from the previous 12 months, as events were cancelled across the globe during the pandemic.

Still, the sales and earnings decline was limited as Arena, led by Irish CEO Greg Lawless, switched into new lines of business during the crisis, delivering temporary Covid-19 hospital sites as well as testing and vaccination centres in the US and Europe. Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) decreased by 65 per cent to £5.7 million.

“The vaccination ‘rollout’ in our major markets is progressing well and there is an expectation and hope that in the second half of 2021 we should see our traditional events returning to normal with a full capacity of spectators,” Mr Lawless said. “However, the last year has taught us to remain cautious and we have taken steps to ensure that both our capital and cost structure are flexible and able to cope with disruption and uncertainty.”

Arena has provided a range of seating structures to the Wimbledon championships, which is currently underway after the grand slam event was cancelled last year, and to golf’s recent US Open at Torrey Pines. It is also renting seats to organisers of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Share sale

In April 2020, Arena raised £9.5 million in a share sale to strengthen its balance sheet and to give the business a greater ability to withstand the commercial and financial impacts of Covid-19. It also secured a £15.6 million lending facility last year under the UK government’s coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. Some £4 million has been drawn down on the facility.

In March this year, the group raised £11 million in another share sale, with some of the proceeds used to acquire a 50 per cent stake in US events rental company Aztec Schaffer, which had been put up for sale after filing for bankruptcy last year.

Arena said it also expects to take advantage of further acquisition opportunities that will emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.