Ocean Outdoor’s full year profits rise, but COVID19 weighs

Piccadilly Lights: Just one of the iconic outdoor sites managed by Ocean.

Digital out-of-home specialist Ocean Outdoor has reported a 14% rise in full year revenue to £141.3 million.

However, performance in the last quarter was stymied by the coronavirus outbreak.

Takings for the last quarter fell 4% to £27m as the global pandemic brought the world to a standstill and demand for digital advertising on billboards evaporated.

Profits for the full year, before tax and other costs rose 9% to £33.2m.

Ocean performance

“We were pleased with a strong set of 2019 results which reflected the positive momentum we had built right across the Group and the underlying fundamentals of Digital Out-of-Home”, Ocean CEO Tim Bleakley said.

“This work has helped us to safeguard the Ocean philosophy and the medium we represent; which builds a strong foundation for us to navigate the present COVID-19 situation.

Ocean has been one of the most active companies in the advertising sector when it came to helping out during the pandemic.

Advertising for good in a crisis

The firm, which manages the world famous Piccadilly Lights billboard in Central London, created and emergency fund and offered free ad space to hundreds of small and medium sized businesses.

It also led the way in sending community messages including those of support for front-line workers.

“As the COVID-19 situation unfolded, the strategy has been to enhance both Ocean’s and the wider industry proposition by using our screen networks in innovative ways to assist and inspire citizens in the countries where we operate” Bleakley said.

Ocean also broadcast extracts of the Queen’s speech on the Piccadilly Lights and created of a Public Art display for the National Gallery across our UK city centre screen networks.

“All these examples generated national and international multi-media headlines and demonstrates Ocean’s societal role”, Bleakley added.

“It is these unique attributes and the capabilities of the digital out of home medium that Ocean continues to showcase that give me confidence in our ability to bounce back stronger.”

Mitigating impact of COVID19

Ocean moved quickly to mitigate the impact of the COVID19 outbreak. It cut all discretionary spend; reduced employee hours and implementing furlough schemes; approached suppliers and landlords; and introduced other cash conservation measures.

To protect jobs and staff, Ocean’s Netherlands and UK businesses implemented significant mitigation measures; reducing the staff working week effective from 1 April 2020 and further reductions implemented across May and June.

In line with government advice, staff were asked to work from home.

Recently, the Group strengthened its balance sheet after entering into a £35m facility agreement.

£25m of the new facility has been issued under the UK government backed Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Ocean’s shares are listed in US dollars on the London Stock Exchange. Earlier they were down just 1.8% at $6.70.