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April 5, 2008

Conjecture over Clarion's next move following SECC exit

Rumours surround Clarion Events’ recent decision to pull out Clarion Events Scotland, its joint venture with the SECC, Scotland’s biggest exhibition and conference venue.

Comments made by Kent Allen, Clarion’s regional managing director, that the events company “chose to sell its stake in the joint venture at this time, to focus investment capital and resources in other sectors and geographic markets that we believe will provide Clarion with greater opportunities for growth”, give strong signals of imminent expansion on the international stage. Perhaps the intention could be to exploit the growth potential of emerging marketing like the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia, where other major players in the exhibition industry, such as DMG, ITE, Montgomery Exhibitions and Informa Group, are making inroads.

The big question is will the move take the form of acquisition or sale?

With respect to the situation in Scotland, Scottish Exhibition Centre Limited, which owns the SECC, has bought out Clarion Events’ half of the shares in Clarion Events (Scotland) Limited, the joint venture company that was formed in December 2003. The now defunct partnership had been very successful in growing each of its show’s earnings, including the Irn Bru Carnival, the Scottish Caravan and Outdoor Leisure Show, the Scottish Wedding Shows, the Baby Show and Financial Services Scotland.

The SECC will rename the company and appoint a new managing director. Mark Saunders’ secondment to the joint venture ended with the sale of shares on 3 April. Clarion is currently discussing other internal roles with Saunders. All Clarion Scotland staff and customer relationships will continue on, as normal.

Mike Closier, group chief executive of SECC, believes the acquisition is extremely good news.

“With the backing of SEC and Clarion Events, the joint venture company has worked well,” he said. “Like all new businesses the early days were not without challenges but the business established itself with the successful presentation of events such as the Wedding Show, the Irn Bru Christmas and New Year Carnival and new exhibitions such as the Baby Show.

“It is on these foundations that the business has developed and demonstrated real potential for growth. The opportunity to buy-out the balance of shareholding, which arose through discussions with Clarion Events, was too good to miss. We are committed to the growth of the company and its portfolio of events – our knowledge and experience of the Scottish market guarantee that we are best placed to do this.”

The events industry will be watching for Clarion’s next move with interest, details of which will appear on EVENTS:review at the first opportunity.

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