Specialist publisher Mark Allen Group grew profits in the first full-year of the Covid-19 pandemic by a fifth despite a previous reliance on events revenue.
Although revenue fell by 20% from £54.6m to £43.7m, pre-tax profit was up 20% from £5m to £6.1m in the year ending 31 March 2021. Profit was however higher in the 2019 financial year, on £6.8m.
Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were up 22% to £10.2m, according to the Mark Allen Holdings Ltd accounts published on Companies House.
Founder and executive chairman Mark Allen (pictured) said the year ending 31 March 2022 had been “even more impressive” with unaudited turnover almost at £60m and EBITDA of £13m.
Allen said the “excellent year” in 2020/21 was “all the more remarkable given the effects of the pandemic which caused a lockdown over many weeks and resulted in no physical exhibitions and events – usually account[ing] for about a third of the group’s revenue – taking place during the year”.
He added: "At the start of the first lockdown no one had a clue as to what lay in store. We produced three budgets – the good, the bad and the ugly. Our performance was considerably better than our wildest hopes at the start of the pandemic."
MAG owns more than 100 magazine and event brands, including B2B titles such as HR, Print Week, The Optician and the British Journal of Nursing.
The December 2019 buyout of the Farmers Weekly magazine and brand from Reed Business Information mitigated the loss of events and exhibitions revenue, Allen said.
He said that the MA Agriculture company, which was created especially to house Farmers Weekly, contributed £11.3m in revenue to the group (a quarter of total group revenue) as well as £4.7m in gross profit (of £15.5m total) and £2.3m in operating profit (of £6.6m).
The group also benefited from a growth in digital products and initiatives, meaning digital now accounts for 29% (£12.8m) of total revenue.
Advertising remained the biggest revenue-driver for the group, down by 10% to £21.4m, although subscriptions (up 37% to £13.3m) overtook conferences (down 73% to 4.6m) to take second place.
UK revenue was down by 10% from £43.1m to £38.7m while non-UK revenue was down more than half from £11.5m to £5m.
At the end of the financial year, the group had cash balances of £6.8m compared to £2.7m on 31 March 2020.
Allen said: “The group will move forward in the next financial year thanks to the continuing successful roll out of digital projects and the gradual return of live events. The directors intend to continue growing the business both organically and by acquisition. The pace at which they do so will depend on how the economy recovers.”
In the past year Mark Allen Group has bought 13 magazines and newsletters including Metal Powder Report, Reinforced Plastics, World Pumps and Filtration & Separation from Elsevier, and acquired the annual event Regen Exhibition and Conference which serves the regeneration industry. Both acquisitions come under the MA Business company.
Citing the war in Ukraine, cost of living crisis, energy and newsprint cost increases, Allen said: "It’s very hard to know what’s around the corner and how the year will pan out, so 2022-23 could be a much tougher year. However, one thing I know for sure is that our staff will do everything they can to ensure that we keep on growing and succeeding."
The accounts revealed that 156 employees had been furloughed at the start of the pandemic under the Government's job retention scheme, using £1.7m in grants, and that "the vast majority" - also described as "nearly all" - had returned to full-time employment in the group.
The average monthly number of employees decreased from 473 in the 2020 financial year to 452. The number of editorial staff went from 136 to 132, while sales staff went from 111 to 92. However staff costs went up from £21.3m to £22.3m.