Pandemic topples Global’s billboard bet

The owner of LBC and Classic FM has plunged to a near £180m loss after…

The owner of LBC and Classic FM has plunged to a near £180m loss after its huge bet on billboard advertising turned sour during the pandemic.

Global struck quickfire deals two years ago to become the UK’s biggest outdoor advertising firm, but has booked a £219m charge on the business following the Covid crisis. 

The hit triggered pre-tax losses of £179.8m for the year to March, widening from a £19.4m loss the year before, according to its latest accounts. 

The market covering roadside billboards and advertising on London’s transport network has become one of the biggest victims of a pandemic-induced drop in advertising sales. 

The outdoor advertising industry is poised to fall 45pc to £577m this year, according to media buying agency GroupM, as companies cut their ad spend to survive the economic turmoil.

Global rolled up billboard firms Outdoor Plus, Primesight and Exterion Media in 2018, securing the advertising contract to the London Underground Network.

But with fewer commuters travelling during lockdown, Transport for London’s advertising income has dropped 96pc to £3m between April and June this year.

Global wrote in its accounts that its charge on its outdoor advertising business was caused by the “short-term impacts” of the Covid crisis and took into account its “low visibility” of the impact across all its advertising markets.