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Médiafigyelő - IMEDIA médiafigyelés
Axel Springer invests in growth
2019-04-08 08:40 [Médiainfó - www.mediainfo.hu]

In the 2018 financial year, Axel Springer achieved all their strategic and financial goals and strengthened its position as a successful digital business.

The Group either met or exceeded its whole year forecast in some places, which had been partially adjusted upwards during the course of the year. The revenue and earnings contributions from digital activities continued to increase: the share of digital business in revenues rose in the reporting period to 70.6 percent. It also generated 84.3 percent of the adjusted Group EBITDA. The strong organic growth of digital media was reflected in a revenue increase adjusted for consolidation and currency effects of 9.6 percent.

Group revenues improved by 4.1 percent in 2018 compared with the previous year. Organically, they grew by 3.8 percent. The result adjusted for purchase price allocations and non-recurring effects prior to taxes, interest, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose by 14.3 percent. Organically - that is to say, adjusted for consolidation and currency effects and effects from the introduction of the new lease accounting - it was also considerably above the previous year figure with an increase of 8.5 percent. Also, the adjusted earnings per share increased by 5.1 percent; organically by 8.3 percent. For the completed financial year, the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board will propose to the Annual General Meeting a dividend of EUR 2.10 per share (PY: EUR 2.00 per share).

Dr. Mathias Döpfner, Chief Executive Officer of Axel Springer SE, comments: "We achieved all our targets in 2018 and even exceeded some of them. In 2019, we want to invest in growth to secure a long term increase in value."

In the completed financial year, Axel Springer continued to pursue consistently its adopted course. The Classifieds Media segment once again developed very positively and made significant increases in revenues and earnings in 2018. At the same time, the Group made targeted investments in acquisitions and shares to supplement the portfolio. In the News Media segment, digital media continued to make progress both at home and abroad. Internationally, INSIDER Inc. and UPDAY achieved particularly strong growth. But also the national core brands BILD and WELT with more than half a million digital subscribers combined, contributed to the segment's good performance despite structural challenges. In the Marketing Media segment, developments in 2018 were again shaped by portfolio optimizations. In the past financial year, in addition to targeted sales and purchases, the Group also began to strengthen collaboration between idealo and the News Media segment in order to make better use of internal synergies.

The Group results in detail: strong organic growth in revenues and earnings

In the 2018 financial year, Axel Springer increased consolidated revenues by 4.1 percent to EUR 3,180.7 million after EUR 3,055.5 million in the previous year. Operational growth was supported in this by positive consolidation effects due to the inclusion of Logic-Immo, Universum and affilinet. On the other hand, currency effects overall had a dampening effect. Adjusted for consolidation and currency effects, revenues exceeded the previous year figure by 3.8 percent. The adjusted EBITDA increased substantially by 14.3 percent to EUR 737.9 million (PY: EUR 645.8 million). Organically, adjusted EBITDA was above the previous year figure by 8.5 percent. Also, the adjusted EBITDA margin at 23.2 percent exceeded the previous year figure of 21.1 percent.

The adjusted EBIT increased, due to higher budgeted depreciation and amortization caused in particular by the new leasing accounting standards, by 4.7 percent to EUR 527.9 million (PY: EUR 504.0 million) compared with the previous year. Here as well, consolidation and currency effects had an impact. The adjusted EBIT increased organically by 6.4 percent. The margin at 16.6 percent was on the level of the previous year (16.5 percent).

The adjusted net income rose by 2.5 percent to EUR 335.7 million (PY: EUR 327.5 million). Because of the lower share of earnings by other partners, the adjusted earnings per share increased by 5.1 percent to EUR 2.73 (PY: EUR 2.60). Organically, adjusted earnings per share were 8.3 percent higher than in the previous year.

The average number of employees at Axel Springer rose by 3.2 percent from 15,836 to 16,350. This rise is largely due to new hiring in the Classifieds Media segment.

Forecast 2019: Increasing revenues for the whole Group expected

For the 2019 financial year, Axel Springer SE expects an increase in revenues in the low single-digit percentage range. Organically, the Group expects growth in the low to mid single-digit percentage range. For the adjusted EBITDA, earnings are expected to be at the level of the prior year. Organic growth of the adjusted EBITDA should be in the low to mid single-digit percentage range. For adjusted EBIT, due to higher depreciation and amortization, a decline in the low single-digit percentage range is expected, and organically growth in the low single-digit percentage range is expected. Development of the adjusted earnings per share is expected to be somewhere between a result on the the prior-year level and a decline in the low single-digit percentage range. For organic development, a rise in the single-digit percentage range is expected.

Revenues in the Classifieds Media segment will likely show growth in the high single-digit to low double-digit percentage range. Organic growth is also expected in the high single-digit to low double-digit percentage range. For adjusted EBITDA, due to increased investments in future growth, a rise in the low to mid single-digit percentage range is expected. The organic rise should be in the mid single-digit percentage range. For adjusted EBIT, due to higher depreciation and amortization, earnings at the prior year level are expected - organically a rise is expected in the low to mid single-digit percentage range.

In the News Media segment, Axel Springer SE expects a decline in revenues in the low to mid single-digit percentage range. Organically, the Group expects a decline in revenues in the low single-digit percentage range. For adjusted EBITDA, a figure at the prior-year level is expected. Also organically, a stable development is expected. For adjusted EBIT, Axel Springer SE expects a decline in the low single-digit percentage range, and organically a result at the prior year level is expected.

In the Marketing Media segment, a decline in revenues in the low single-digit percentage range is expected. For organic development, growth in revenues in the high single-digit percentage range is expected. For adjusted EBITDA, a rise in the low to mid single-digit percentage range is expected, and organic growth is expected in the high single-digit to low double-digit percentage range. For adjusted EBIT, due to rising depreciation and amortization, Axel Springer SE expects a decline in the low single-digit percentage range, and expects organic growth in the high single-digit percentage range.

For the Services/Holding segment, due to market conditions, a decline in revenues in the low double-digit percentage range is expected. Also for organic development, a decline in the low double-digit percentage range is expected. For adjusted EBITDA, a decline in the double-digit percentage range is expected, and also organically a decline is expected in the double-digit percentage range. For adjusted EBIT, due to lower depreciation and amortization, a decline is expected in the high single-digit to low double-digit percentage range. Organically, the same development can be expected.

Digital Media and International Business continued to be strong

During the 2018 financial year, digital activities continued to be the decisive growth driver. They increased revenues by 10.5 percent to EUR 2,206.5 million (PY: EUR 1,996.5 million). The organic growth of 9.6 percent was underpinned, in particular, by the Classifieds Media and News Media segments.

Revenues from international business also developed positively. They rose from EUR 1,329.8 million to EUR 1,406.5 million, representing an increase in growth of 5.8 percent. Accordingly, their share in Group revenues rose to 44.2 percent (PY: 43.5 percent).

Dynamic revenues and earnings growth in the Classifieds Media segment

The Classifieds Media segment once again was the Group's growth engine in the 2018 financial year. The Classifieds business posted a significant rise in revenues by 20.3 percent to EUR 1,212.5 million (PY: EUR 1,007.7 million). This was mainly attributable to the dynamic development of the job and real estate portals, which achieved growth in revenues of 21.5 percent and 29.4 percent respectively. Organically, meaning adjusted for consolidation and currency effects, the increase in revenues from the segment amounted to 11.4 percent.

Also in terms of earnings, the Classifieds Media segment increased significantly. The adjusted EBITDA exceeded the prior year figure with EUR 487.2 million by 17.9 percent (PY: EUR 413.2 million). Organically, the increase amounted to 11.4 percent. With an adjusted EBITDA margin of 40.2 percent, the segment remained highly profitable. The slight decrease compared with the previous year (2017: 41.0 percent) was mainly due to investments in marketing, products and technologies, as well as the inclusion of companies whose margins were below the segment average.

The adjusted EBIT in the Classifieds Media segment rose by 12.7 percent from EUR 361.0 million to EUR 406.7 million. Organically, it increased by 10.6 percent. Depreciation and amortization rose, particularly because of the new leasing accounting standards, by 54.2 percent to EUR 80.5 million (PY: EUR 52.2 million).

In the reporting period, the News Media segment achieved revenues of EUR 1,496.2 million and so was slightly below the prior year figure of EUR 1,509.8 million. Digital offerings once again developed positively and now account for 38.5 percent of the segment's revenues (PY: 33.9 percent).

The adjusted EBITDA of the News Media segment grew by 4.3 percent and came to EUR 228.2 million (PY: EUR 218.8 million). Organically, it was less than the previous year figure by 3.5 percent. With an adjusted EBITDA margin of 15.3 percent, the segment came in slightly over the value for the previous year (14.5 percent) Noteworthy developments in the segment are, nationally, the combined more than half a million digital subscriptions for BILD and WELT and, internationally, INSIDER Inc., parent company of BUSINESS INSIDER, reaching - as expected - the break-even point.

In contrast to the adjusted EBITDA, the adjusted EBIT in the News Media segment declined by 13.6 percent from EUR 182.9 million in the previous year to EUR 158.2 million. This was mainly due to the increase in depreciation and amortization by 95.5 percent to EUR 70.0 million, because of the first-time application of the new IFRS 16 accounting standard in 2018 (PY: EUR 35.8 million). The organic EBIT in the News Media segment declined in comparison with the previous year by 12.5 percent.

Revenues in the Marketing Media segment declined, essentially due to consolidation, by 12.4 percent to EUR 418.3 million (PY: EUR 477.3 million). Organically, the revenues increased by 2.1 percent. In reach-based marketing, the effects are noticeable mainly from the sale of aufeminin in April 2018. By way of contrast, the effect in performance marketing was positive due to the first-time consolidation of affilinet.

With an adjusted EBITDA of EUR 89.6 million, the segment remained 6.3 percent below the prior-year figure (EUR 95.6 million). Organically, the decline contributed 2.5 percent. Due to the higher revenue declines, the adjusted EBITDA margin rose to 21.4 percent (PY: 20.0 percent). The adjusted EBIT in the Marketing Media segment declined by 14.7 percent from EUR 77.4 million in the prior year to EUR 66.0 million. Organically, the EBIT of the Marketing Media segment rose by 0.5 percent in comparison with the period last year.

Revenues in the Services/Holding segment declined in the reporting period by 11.5 percent to EUR 53.7 million (PY: EUR 60.7 million). The adjusted EBITDA improved to EUR -67.0 million (PY: EUR -81.7 million). The adjusted EBIT in the Services/Holding segment increased to EUR -103.0 million (PY: EUR -117.4 million).

Increased free cash flow

In the reporting period, Axel Springer increased its free cash flow, excluding the effects of real estate transactions, by 23.0 percent to EUR 419.6 million (PY: EUR 341.1 million). Net debt increased at the end of the 2018 financial year, due to the first-time application of IFRS 16 and the corresponding recognition of leasing liabilities, to EUR 1,249.2 million (December 31, 2017: EUR 1,020.2 million). At the end of the 2018 financial year, the Group had non-utilized long-term credit facilities amounting to EUR 1,047.0 million (December 31, 2017: EUR 835.0 million). The equity ratio increased to a high level of 44.5 percent (December 31, 2017: 43.5 percent).


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