Mr. Unger, 2009 was a horror year for the media industry. Has Ringier been doing better in 2010 until now?
Christian Unger: We’ve laid the foundation last year, which only this year is beginning to pay off. I’m specifically referring to the joint venture with Springer in Eastern Europe, which is making good progress, the start of ticketing operations or the Ringier Entertainment business. We achieved a great deal in 2009. We are moving at a fast pace. In this sense, 2009 was not a horror year.
In the meantime, we are half way through 2010. Have the businesses recovered?
Revenues in the traditional printing business have not yet recovered at all. We see a very modest level of economic activity and therefore a rather weak level in advertisements as well. This has an impact on well-managed titles such as Blick. Yet some titles such as Schweizer Illustrierte and Glückspost are competing extremely well. But a major recovery has not yet started.
Does this mean you are planning another round of cost-cutting?
Last year, we defined our cost program in such a way that we are right on track this year. Still, there is no reason to rejoice because our return is too low. We must achieve more solid results here.
Why must a media company be more solid?
The media sector is considered to be risky because the outlook within the industry remains unclear and cyclical dependency is high. This should be reflected in our return.
That sounds rather technical. In other words, are Ringier’s earnings so low that the slightest economic headwind leads to losses?
It’s not that bad. However, the return on revenue should be between 6 and 10 percent. We should not fall into the red right away if something goes wrong.
Where do you currently make out the major trouble spots within the Ringier Group?
Romania continues to be a concern. The losses have been contained and are three times smaller than last year, but advertisement revenue continues to tank in this challenging market. Our work on these trouble spots needs to be finished by 2011 or 2012 at the latest. Once again, it’s very simple: the riskier the market, the better the return should be. Romania is a riskier market than, say, Switzerland so that the return needs to be higher. But you’ve asked about the trouble spots. I would prefer to call them areas where we have some catching up to do. In my view the greatest need exists in our digital businesses. We have just enjoyed good success with apps such as the one by Blick for the World Cup. In this particular area we are the market leader. However, as far as creating ideas for the iPad is concerned, we are not yet where we should be.
The iPad is a good example. Are we just talking about a lot of hype around a nice little tool, or could this be a real business opportunity waiting for Ringier?
I’m not yet envisioning big money here. But we need to occupy the iPad theme, otherwise we put our traditional business at risk in the medium term. Without offering anything in this area, we open the door for our competitors. We certainly don’t underestimate the issue.
This struggle will cost money. Does Ringier have the necessary investment capacity?
The funds are available, that’s not the issue. However, I do see a certain lack of inspiration and ideas. It would be nice if we could develop our own models from within our existing teams. We must better leverage our own innovative capacity.
Speaking of innovative capacity: Which company, from your point of view, serves as a good example for innovation?
Apple still serves a role model: This now huge company must meet the challenge of every new technological advance and continue to reinvent itself. The same is true for us.