As reported by Future plc:
Robust first-half performance extending our track record of growth in revenue, operating profit and cash flow:
- An exceptionally strong first half, with revenue up 89% to £272.6m (HY 2020: £144.3m). Revenue ahead of last year by 21% on an organic basis, driven by the Media division's organic growth of 30% and in particular digital advertising on-platform organic growth of 30% and eCommerce affiliates' organic growth of 56%. US achieved revenue growth of 31% on an organic basis and UK revenues grew by 5% organically (UK has a higher mix of events and magazines revenues which were impacted more materially by the pandemic). Management estimates that COVID-19 related one-off revenue benefit for eCommerce is in the region of £5m in the period.
- Improved quality of earnings, resulting from favourable revenue mix, scalability of the model, and platform effect: reflected by the strong adjusted operating profit margin of 33%, up 5ppt year-on-year (HY 2020: 28%). Adjusted operating profit up 124% to £89.2m (HY 2020: £39.9m), and statutory operating profit up 142% to £59.7m (HY 2020: £24.7m)
- The Group remains highly cash generative with strong adjusted free cash flow of £93.9m (HY 2020: £40.0m), representing 105% of adjusted operating profit (HY 2020: 100%).
- Leverage of 1.3x (FY 2020: 0.6x) reflecting rapid de-levering of the Group following the acquisition of GoCo, resulting in net debt at half year of £241.3m (FY 2020: £62.1m).
Operational and Strategic Highlights
Future's strategy is to be a global platform for intent-led specialist media underpinned by technology, and enabled by data; with material, scalable, diversified brands. Over the last 6 months the execution of our strategy continued to deliver exceptional results:
- Record engagement as we meet our audiences' needs, with total reach of 419m a month, and online user growth of 31% yoy to 311m (HY 2020: 237m).
- Our high quality of audiences and data has resulted in a 19% increase in direct advertising campaigns which has underpinned digital advertising display yield mix growth of 34%.
- Future's ability to deliver audiences with intent to retailers resulted in 95% yoy increase in merchants achieving sales from Future sites.
- Platform effect continues to deliver; even with significant investment in editorial, including the creation of around 150 new roles and around 37 new roles in the technology team in HY 2021, while costs per head reduced 10% yoy.
- Our successful strategy of accelerating growth through acquisitions continues to deliver:
- Ongoing delivery of benefits from TI Media - acquired in April 2020; performance has been ahead of expectations with online user growth of 54% in March 2021 vs prior year, while eCommerce revenues grew 277% in March 2021 vs prior year.
- Integration of GoCo - acquired in February 2021 - well advanced with a very strong performance in the period. Cost synergies arising from the transaction are now expected to be £15m per annum (versus earlier forecasts of £10m per annum).
- Post-period end, in May 2021 we announced the acquisition of Marie Claire US which strengthens our position in the women's lifestyle vertical in North America, in line with the Group's strategy to achieve brand vertical leadership with a North America- first approach.
- Expect full-year results to be materially ahead of market expectations, underpinned by exceptional H1 performance.
- While we remain cautious around the wider macroeconomic uncertainties associated with COVID-19, Q3 has started ahead of management expectations
Zillah Byng-Thorne, Future's Chief Executive, said: "I am delighted to report the ongoing successful execution of our strategy with record revenue and profit in this half, materially ahead of market expectations. Following an exceptional eCommerce and digital advertising performance during Black Friday and Christmas in Q1, we have carried this strong trading momentum through to the end of the first half.
"The progress we continue to make is testament to the diversity of our revenue streams, the agility of our people, and the scalable operating model we have built over time, which generates long-term sustainable growth.
"Content and data sit at the heart of our business; the depth of our market-leading, specialist brands means that today we reach one in three people online in the US and UK. Thanks to our expert content, combined with our scalable proprietary technology, we continue to increase our reach; the recent acquisition of Marie Claire US is another enabler of our ongoing focus on vertical leadership.
"We know our audiences increasingly seek intent-driven content and authoritative advice to inform their purchasing decisions. We were therefore delighted to acquire GoCo Group and Mozo during the period, accelerating our strategy by extending our eCommerce proposition beyond products into services, further diversifying our revenue streams.
"Looking ahead, we are well positioned to sustain the growth momentum we have built over recent years. Whilst we remain cautious about the wider macroeconomic uncertainties associated with COVID-19, we are confident in the outlook for the Group and expect the full year to be materially ahead of market expectations, underpinned by an exceptional H1 performance."