NEWS IN ENGLISH | Axel Springer further expands its position as Europe’s leading digital publisher
Owing to the strong organic growth of the digital business models, total revenues increased by 4.1 percent after adjustment for consolidation and currency effects. Despite significant deconsolidation effects, the reported total revenues for 2016 remained stable at the prior-year level. With a large increase of 6.5 percent, the EBITDA achieved the high end of the forecast. The adjusted earnings per share increased by 8.5 percent. The Executive Board and the Supervisory Board will propose to the Annual General Meeting for the 2016 business year a dividend increase to EUR 1.90 per share (PY: EUR 1.80).
Dr Mathias Döpfner, Chief Executive Officer of Axel Springer SE: "During a successful 2016, we have continued to invest in growth and further expanded our position as Europe's leading digital publisher. This strategy is paying off: Axel Springer now has the classified ads portfolio with the strongest worldwide revenues and a large number of market-leading offerings. In a rapidly changing world we are, at the same time, seeing a high demand for orientation and reliability, which only strong media brands can provide. This year we are seeking to exploit the potential of our activities even more effectively and focus on further earnings increases."
The company has also increased growth of the Classified Ad Models and strengthened the position of the Paid Models. During the financial year just ended, Axel Springer invested, as announced, in the further development of the digital growth projects BUSINESS INSIDER and UPDAY as well as in the further expansion of the US activities of the Bonial Group. In the 2017 financial year,
Axel Springer is prioritizing a further increase in profitability. The company will therefore concentrate primarily on making optimal use of the potential from newly acquired and existing businesses and enhancing synergies.
For the first time, Axel Springer published mid-term targets for the Paid Models segment. The Group expects EBITDA to remain stable (EUR 205 million - EUR 225 million) in the years between 2017 and 2019 with slightly regressing revenues.
Details of the results: Group significantly increases EBITDA
With total revenues of EUR 3,290.2 million, Axel Springer attained the previous-year level (EUR 3,294.9 million) and thus fulfilled its intrayear-substantiated revenue forecast. Growth was affected, above all, by deconsolidation effects resulting, inter alia, from integrating the Swiss activities into Ringier Axel Springer Schweiz AG. Adjusted for consolidation and currency effects, the total revenues increased by 4.1 percent. The company increased the EBITDA by 6.5 percent to EUR 595.5 million (PY: EUR 559.0 million). It thus attained the high end of the full-year forecast. The EBITDA margin, already at a high level, improved from 17.0 percent to 18.1 percent. In terms of revenue and earnings, Axel Springer benefited again, in particular, from strong growth in the Classified Ad Models.
During the reporting year just ended, consolidated net income increased by 47.7 percent to EUR 450.0 million (PY: EUR 304.6 million). This resulted in earnings per share of EUR 3.94 (PY: EUR 2.50). The consolidated net income adjusted for non-recurring effects and impairments from purchase price allocations improved to EUR 299.9 million (PY: EUR 279.3 million) and thus increased by 7.4 percent. The adjusted earnings per share increased by 8.5 percent to EUR 2.41 compared to EUR 2.22 in the prior year. Axel Springer has thus fulfilled the full-year forecast.
The average number of employees increased, as a result of continuing organic expansion of the digital business and acquisitions, from 15,023 to 15,323.
Forecast for 2017: Revenues and EBITDA to increase
For the 2017 financial year, the Group expects an increase in revenues in the mid-single-digit percentage range. The Executive Board assumes that the planned increase in advertising revenues will more than compensate for the slight decrease in circulation revenues and other revenues. A rise in EBITDA and adjusted earnings per share is expected in the mid to high single-digit percentage range.
In the Classified Ad Models segment, revenues are expected to increase in the low double-digit percentage range, mostly driven by organic growth. Revenues in the Paid Models segment will prospectively remain approximately at prior year level. The Group anticipates the Marketing Models segment to grow in the high single-digit to low double-digit percentage range. Regarding the Services/Holding segment, the Group expects considerably lower revenues due to regressing printing revenues as well as lower rent incomes linked to the sale of building sections at the location Hamburg.
The segments' EBITDA is expected to develop along the lines of the segments' total revenues.
The organic growth dynamic of the digital media continues
The increasing importance of the digital business models has been a decisive factor driving the Group's growth. Their pro-forma revenues increased during the reporting year by 7.7 percent to EUR 2,216.5 million (PY: EUR 2,057.2 million). Adjusted for consolidation and currency effects, the digital media achieved an organic growth of 10.7 percent.
At the same time, Axel Springer continued to invest in the expansion of its international business during the financial year just ended. With a share of 47.5 percent (PY: 47.8 percent) the Group generated nearly half of its revenues in international markets. In total, the foreign revenues for 2016 were, at EUR 1,564.3 million, only slightly lower than in the prior year (EUR 1,573.5 million). The decline is attributable to the deconsolidation of Swiss activities in the course of the jointly founded company with Ringier.
Advertising revenues improved during the financial year by 5.5 percent to EUR 2,223.1 million (PY: EUR 2,107.6 million). This increase was based primarily on growth in the Classified Ad Models and Marketing Models. At the same time, the digital activities continued to grow. They generated 84.8 percent of total advertising revenues (PY: 80.4 percent). The circulation revenues recorded a decrease of 10.4 percent to EUR 646.9 million (PY: EUR 721.7 million), which was primarily attributable to consolidation effects. After adjustment for consolidation and currency effects, the decrease was 3.5 percent. The other revenues also decreased, on account of consolidation effects, by 9.8 percent from EUR 465.7 million to EUR 420.2 million. Adjusted for consolidation and currency effects, the other revenues recorded an increase of 5.0 percent.
The market-leading classified ads business continues to drive growth
With strong growth in revenues and earnings, the Classified Ad Models segment remained the growth engine for the Group during the 2016 financial year. The revenues from the segment increased by 16.8 percent to EUR 879.5 million
(PY: EUR 753.1 million). Thus, Axel Springer has the classified ads business with the strongest worldwide revenues. Alongside strong organic growth, especially in the area of job portals, the consolidation effects resulting from strategic acquisitions were also a contributing factor in this respect, for example from the integration of Immowelt, Land & Leisure and Traum-Ferienwohnungen. All three categories - Jobs, Real Estate and General/Other - recorded double-digit growth rates during the reporting year.
The segment's EBITDA increased considerably by 16.3 percent to EUR 354.6 million (PY: EUR 305.0 million). Adjusted for consolidation and currency effects, the EBITDA growth amounted to 11.5 percent. With an EBITDA margin of 40.3 percent (PY: 40.5 percent), the segment remained highly profitable. In this respect, the Job category generated an EBITDA margin of 42.9 percent, the Real Estate category an EBITDA margin of 44.9 percent and the General/Other category improved its EBITDA margin to 32.7 percent.
In the Paid Models segment, Axel Springer accelerated the cross-channel and cross-border establishment of journalistic content and formats during the reporting year. In this respect, the Group made significant progress in winning paid subscribers for the digital offerings of BILD and WELT as well as in the international expansion of the segment with offerings such as BUSINESS INSIDER, POLITICO and UPDAY. The number of subscribers to the digital BILD and WELT thus increased, as of the end of December 2016, to a total of 421,002 (+9.6 percent compared to December 2015). Moreover, during 2016, BUSINESS INSIDER reached more than 100 million people worldwide in one month for the first time. The consolidated Group increased the number of video requests on digital platforms to an average of approximately 2.7 billion per month.