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By Aby Jose Koilparambil
(Reuters) - UK-based events organiser Informa Plc expects its profits to return to pre-pandemic levels only by 2024 or 2025, its chief executive said on Thursday, after posting a surge in half-year earnings riding on robust demand for physical events and other services.
The profit jump, compared with a weak base when the pandemic battered the firm's operations, failed to cheer investors, with shares declining about 4% by 0845 GMT.
The world's largest exhibitions group saw profits slump in the last two years from a strong showing in the pre-pandemic fiscal 2019, as lockdowns and other restrictions forced cancellation of physical gatherings globally.
Informa CEO Stephen Carter said the high pace of revenue and profit growth seen in the first-half of the current fiscal would continue for the rest of the year.
"If you are asking me when we will see a year that is as strong as 2019, I think that is either going to be 2024 or 2025," Carter told Reuters.
Informa's adjusted operating profit for the six-month period ended June 30 came in at 234.5 million pounds ($284.87 million), compared with 71.8 million pounds a year earlier.
The company reiterated its annual adjusted operating profit outlook at the upper end of its previously guided 470 million pounds-490 million pounds range. In the 2019 financial year, the company had reported a profit of 933.1 million pounds.
The London-headquartered company on Thursday also said it would sell its maritime intelligence business for 385 million pounds, marking the completion of sale of its entire intelligence portfolio, including pharma and fund flow data.
A part of the $3 billion proceeds from the portfolio sale would be reinvested in Informa's academic markets and B2B businesses, the CEO said, with the rest of the capital to be returned to shareholders in the form of buybacks and dividend payments.
($1 = 0.8232 pounds)
(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Shailesh Kuber)