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Piccadilly Lights operator Ocean Outdoor in ‘fight back’ as vaccine rollout fuels advertising recovery

Naomi Ackerman
·2-min read
<p>The company operates the iconic Piccadilly Lights ad space for Landsec</p> (Ocean Outdoor)

The company operates the iconic Piccadilly Lights ad space for Landsec

(Ocean Outdoor)

Ocean Outdoor, which operates the iconic Piccadilly Lights and large-scale advertising screens at Westfield malls, has said the outlook for 2021 is bright as "momentum is building" in the sector with the vaccine rollout.

The company makes around 60% of revenues in the UK, with the rest of its footprint in Holland, Germany and Scandinavia. It reported a pre-tax loss of £182 million, including a Covid-related £142 million impairment charge, for the year to end December, from a £6.2 million loss in 2019. Gross profits halved to £22.5 million.

Revenues were down 20% to £86.2 million as lockdowns hammered trade - particularly in Britain.

But on Tuesday the listed firm highlighted debt facilities and its £30 million cash position, and said it has secured a deal with BT Sport to broadcast Champions League match clips for shoppers in seven UK cities as live sports return.

London Westfield shoppers will be among those able to watch match clips, and highlights may be played on the Piccadilly screens.

The company also said it signed a €7 million (£6 million) contract to become Westfield Netherlands' 10-year strategic media partner, and that it has launched inside Oslo bus station, one of Norway’s busiest transport locations, with 28 new digital screens.

Chief executive Tim Bleakley said the company is turning itself into a public broadcast network, and that executives believe this will "pay dividends for the recovery".

He told the Standard: "We are already engaged in the fight back.

"The story is survive to thrive. We've done everything a business can do in the face of a pandemic... It's been a tough year, but when the government switches off your audience - imagine if you were a TV company and people said you can't watch television - that's about as bad as it gets.

"We've protected our cash, our liquidity, and we've continued to invest and do a number of things that we believe put us in good shape for the recovery - including technology, new assets and new contracts, across every single country."

Bleakley said that the company is seeing a direct correlation between increasing business confidence with the vaccine rollout and increasing revenue bookings. "The trajectory and the pattern of that is more positive week-on-week," he said.

"I'm still glancing in the rearview mirror occasionally, but we have our eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead now," the chief executive said.

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