Arena Group CEO: Paul Berger

After a turbulent year for the events industry, Arena Group shifts its focus into new markets and alternative areas of investment. TPi’s Stew Hume reports.

Internationally renowned temporary structures provider, Arena Group, like most in the live events sector, has faced an unprecedented challenge since March 2020 with the immediate grounding of the sector in territories across the globe. In order to survive this trying time, the company has implemented a two-pronged strategy: a plea for investment to the company’s loyal stockholders; and a re-evaluation of its target markets, moving into new sectors including education, medical and military applications.

Arena Group EMEA CEO, Paul Berger reflected on the lessons learned from 2020 and speculated what lies ahead for the company. “It’s interesting to see how all the various regions of the world have reacted to COVID-19,” mused Berger. “As we speak, there is some positive news from the UK with a vaccine, but it’s been incredibly up and down and very tricky to navigate. In the Middle East – Dubai specifically – we are now starting to see events taking shape and, by Q4, we should be in a decent shape. One thing throughout all the territories has been the uncertainty of events. Nobody is able to predict when we’ll be back to normal and what form these events will take.”

With many of Arena’s annual contacts having to be put on hold, a key focus has been some “creative, out-of-the-box thinking” about how the Group’s equipment and services might be used in different ways. “We are incredibly lucky that we are not only an event management company and that we have products that can be used for other industry sectors away from events,” he underlined.

Although TPi readers are more likely to see Arena’s equipment in temporary seating, staging or hospitality areas – over the past few months the firm has been busy working on “alternative projects” in other sectors. This has involved a broad range of work, from building temporary buildings for the military to enable more effective social distancing among the ranks, to structures for medical services to create more space within hospitals.

“One of the hardest lessons that many have had to learn is that we have become far too dependant on the events industry as our sole source of income. Moving forward, Arena’s strategy is diversification and not restricting ourselves to one sector.” As a commodity rental company, Arena is in the fortunate position of being able to look at other industry sectors.

Berger was inspired by those pivoting their skillsets or seeking alternative avenues of employment during these most trying of times. “The events industry as a whole is made up of some incredibly creative people who are resilient and adaptable as many have effectively begun working in other sectors during the pandemic,” he remarked.

Along with Arena’s outward perspective, the Group has also undergone a major restructuring, which was sped up by COVID-19. “Prior to the pandemic, Arena was already going through a corporate restructuring, but then when the events industry began to feel the impact of COVID-19, we decided to look further ahead in order to ensure the future of Arena,” he elaborated.

As a publicly quoted company, Arena opted to raise additional funds by asking shareholders to invest to ensure that the company would be able to weather the economic storm of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This also opened up the opportunity for more shares to be purchased,” Berger revealed.

During this time, Arena were able to attract a strategic investment from Saudi Arabia, to support the Group and its ambitions to grow further in the Kingdom. On the back of the hugely successful temporary stadium that Arena Seating built for the boxing in Riyadh, Arena is expanding its presence across Saudi Arabia with the support of the company’s new shareholder.

“The culmination of these investments and breaking into new sectors has enabled Arena Group to manage the cash burn of a large company in the events space,” stated Berger, giving his final thoughts on the past 10 months. “It’s been a learning curve across the board as we’ve moved into new sectors and, without the support of our investors, the past few months would have been very hard indeed.”

This article originally appeared in issue #258 of TPi, which you can read here.

Photo: Arena Group