Growth accelerates at NEC Group

Entertainment and events group NEC has accelerated its profitable growth as it benefits from the speed of decision-making that its private sector ownership enables.

Chief executive Paul Thandi hailed “an exceptional year” with the group’s financial performance reflecting its ambitious strategy and transformational agenda.

The group, which includes Arena Birmingham, the ICC, NEC and Resorts World among its venues, has seen its operating profits jump by nearly 60%.

Revenues were up 18% to £157.7m for the year to March, which was the first full year of accounts since LDC backed the £307m management buyout from Birmingham City Council in May 2015.

It was also the first accounts to benefit from a full year of Resorts World and The Vox being fully operational.

Paul Thandi – Ambassador of the Year (Picture: Rob Finney)

“We knew going into private ownership would only accelerate our growth plans and we have demonstrated that,” said Thandi. “We will continue to demonstrate that by results.”

He added: “Our culture needed to be private, so we could move really quickly with cap-ex decisions.”

The group invested £17.2m on capital expenditure during the year, with a focus on projects to enhance the customer experience and drive trading performance.

Its venues welcome 7m people a year while its ticketing division, The Ticket Factory, sells 2.5m tickets a year for its own and third-party venues.

Thandi acknowledged that the failure to replace Barclaycard as the title sponsor of the city centre arena, which has resulted in a temporary rebranding to Arena Birmingham, “is not a result that we want”.

“We have two or three people that we are talking with who really want to work with us and who can help us to drive a better experience for the customer,” he said.

NEC Group chief executive Paul Thandi, second left, at the groundbreaking for Legoland Discovery Centre Birmingham

Customer experience, technology and data are key themes for Thandi and the business. Investments in digital technology are targeted at enhancing people’s visits to venues, while also further refining its ability to “draw insight” from the vast amount of data it holds.

Thandi, who won the Ambassador award at’s Business Masters in June for his leadership of the NEC Group, expects the current financial year to deliver another jump in profitable growth.

“You will see a positive trend in our EBITDA [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation]. That’s a philosophy that we have, to grow it year on year.”

Long-term growth is expected to come from two Merlin Entertainments venues opening, including Legoland Discovery Centre Birmingham which is now being built at Arena Birmingham, while a hotel will always be added to the group’s offer.