German Springer posts higher 2010 sales, lower profit

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German publisher Axel Springer, European leader in newspapers, had higher sales last year than in 2009 because of acquisitions but earned less owing to an unfavourable comparison effect.

The publisher of the popular daily Bild and Die Welt said net profit fell to 274 million euros ($378 million) in 2010 from 314 million a year earlier, but the 2009 figure benefitted from the sale of Springer assets.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (Ebitda), which is a better gauge of performance, gained 53 percent to 511 million euros, on sales that were 11 percent higher at 2.89 billion euros.

Acquisitions that boosted the sales figure included the recruitment site StepStone, while the full integration of a joint venture with the Swiss group Ringier also helped.

Springer's digital media division, which has been reinforced in recent years, posted a sales increase of more than 50 percent at 712 million euros and now accounts for more than one quarter of the group's total.

Its biggest Internet acquisition to date is the French real-estate site, in which Springer has a holding of more than 72 percent since Tuesday.

The site "is a very important element in our strategy," Springer boss Mathias Doepfner told a press conference.

New media, including several applications for iPhone and iPad, should help compensate for waning perspectives for paper-based sales.

Sales and profits at German publications are expected to decline this year, the group said, in part owing to rising paper costs.

But new media and foreign publications should make up the decline and Ebitda should increase further this year and next, it added.

Meanwhile, Springer unveiled a three-for-one stock split, with finance director Lothar Lanz saying: "We want to make the stock attractive for small shareholders."

Springer shares showed a heavy loss of 5.38 percent to 113.55 euros in midday trading, while the MDAX index on which they are listed was 1.46 percent lower overall.

Doepfner said that simply demonstrated the stock market adage "sell on good news."

© 2011 AFP

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