Since 2007, Ringier has invested some CHF 1.6 billion in transforming the company into a diversified media group. 60 percent of these funds were devoted to acquiring digital businesses, an investment that is now increasingly paying off. In 2014, 32.1 percent of the Group’s overall revenue of CHF 988.5 million was already generated by its digital operations, as was nearly 50 percent of Group EBITDA of CHF 82.3 million. CHF 611.1 million (62 percent) of overall revenue came from Ringier’s businesses in Switzerland and Germany, with CHF Eastern Europe accounting for 241.1. million (24 percent), while printing operations in Switzerland contributed CHF 110.1 million (11 percent) and Asia and the promising African market generated CHF 26.2 million (3 percent).
The decline in EBITDA between 2013 and 2014 essentially reflects the one-off effects arising from real-estate sales in 2013 and extraordinary factors in 2014 associated with the company’s transformation of its business. This resulted in an EBITDA margin of 8.3 percent in 2014, compared to 12 percent in 2013.
After adjusting for these one-off factors, the decline in EBITDA between 2013 and 2014 was only CHF -7.1 million, or 8.3 percent. This shortfall is almost entirely attributable to lower earnings from the Group’s printing plants and its newspaper and magazine operations both in and outside Switzerland.
In the words of Ringier CEO Marc Walder, “The Ringier Group pursued its transformation strategy at a rapid pace in 2014 and will continue to do so. Today, Ringier is one of Europe’s most diversified media enterprises, both geographically and in terms of the activities in which it engages. With 32.1 percent of our revenue now being generated by our digital businesses, we are ahead of our medium-term objectives. We are achieving particularly substantial growth with our digital classified-advertising portals in all the national markets we cover, both in terms of revenue and profitability. The investments the Ringier family has made are testimony to their entrepreneurial farsightedness. Despite this diversification, publishing, both online and off, remains central to Ringier’s activities.”
In its Publishing business, Ringier’s titles continued to operate from a position of strength in 2014, enjoying high levels of acceptance from readers, users and advertisers alike. Despite the challenges facing the Group’s core Publishing business, Ringier titles were not only able to uphold their leading market positions, they also successfully launched a range of innovative offerings. This is notably exemplified by the Blick am Abend digital platform, which, in its first year of operation, attracted more than one million unique client visits per month.
With its new editor-in-chief, Blick has significantly enhanced its publishing relevance and impact. Its readership of 667,000 means that it remains the most widely read paid newspaper in Switzerland. SonntagsBlick, which is read by 760,000 people each week, also held its own as the country’s most popular Sunday title, while Blick.ch has maintained its position as one of the most prominent media portals in Switzerland, attracting more than four million unique client visits each month. Overall, Ringier’s magazine titles nearly matched the outstanding results they had achieved in 2013, with GlücksPost, Schweizer LandLiebe and SI Style and all its special supplements even improving on their 2013 performance. With 712,000 readers, Schweizer Illustrierte remains Switzerland’s most widely read family and celebrity magazine title. Schweizer LandLiebe again achieved particularly strong circulation performance in 2014, with more than half a million readers now enjoying each issue.
With the exception of TV8, the television-schedule magazine, Ringier Romandie’s titles did not meet their business objectives. Ringier further strengthened its market position in French-speaking Switzerland in 2014 by acquiring the shares in the Le Temps newspaper title previously held by Tamedia. Plans are in place to open a shared newsroom for Le Temps, L’Hebdo and Bolero-Edelweiss in Lausanne in 2015.
In Ringier’s printing-plant business, Ringier Print Adligenswil continued to perform well in 2014, achieving a modest increase in revenue, while Swissprinters in Zofingen was adversely affected by more intense price competition from abroad and the strength of the Swiss franc, with the result that revenue fell 10 percent.
Although Ringier Germany achieved an increase in revenue, advertising sales at Cicero and Monopol have not yet reached their planned targets. Cicero did however succeed in expanding its sold circulation by 3.6 percent.
The Energy brand became an increasingly significant element in Ringier’s Entertainment business during 2014. Energy today is far more than a radio broadcaster. It has become one of the most prominent media brands in Switzerland. Among the prime advertising target audience of listeners aged 15 to 49, Energy Zurich is the most popular private radio broadcaster in Switzerland, indisputably so and by a wider margin than ever. In German-speaking Switzerland, the three Energy radio stations in Basel, Bern and Zurich now reach 480,000 listeners every day. The Energy brand is also doing well online, with 323,000 unique clients generating some 1.9 million visits to the Energy.ch website each month.
Energy further expanded the range of events it organizes in 2014, hosting the first Energy Air concert at the Stade de Suisse in Bern, attracting an audience of 40,000. The existing Energy Fashion Night, Energy Live Sessions and Energy Stars For Free events also continued to draw enthusiastic crowds.
Ticketcorner continued to build on its leading position in the event-ticketing market, signing long-term contracts with major production companies such as Carré Events and Good News Productions, as well as new venues such as the Stade de Suisse. Ticketcorner currently holds contracts with 11 football clubs and 12 ice-hockey clubs, as well as with the national associations for these two sports.
InfrontRingier Sports & Entertainment Switzerland AG also achieved further growth in 2014. After an interval of 42 years, the Swiss Ice Hockey Cup was successfully relaunched on October 1, 2014. Infront Ringier was reponsible both for staging the matches and for distributing the media, marketing and merchandising rights. 2015 will see Infront Ringier organize the Tour de Suisse cycling race for the first time, an event for which it has also been awarded sole marketing rights. The firm will also organise six B2RUN company runs in Switzerland in 2015 and has also been chosen as a new strategic partner for the ATP World Tour 500 Swiss Indoors Basel tennis championship.
Sat.1 Switzerland (in which Ringier holds a 40-percent stake) performed well in 2014, with LandLiebeTV achieving the broadcaster’s highest average audiences for the entire year in Switzerland, while the new Energy NOW format was successfully launched on the ProSieben channel.
In 2014, Ringier also achieved a major TV success in its marketing of TF1, the most widely watched private television channel in French-speaking Switzerland, generating its best results since it was first awarded the contract three years ago and securing a long-term extension of its contract with TF1.
Ticket sales for the 2014 Moon & Stars concerts in Locarno fell short of expectations, as a consequence of bad weather and the fact that the football World Cup was also being contested at the same time. The Classical Company, a joint venture between Ringier and the German company DEAG, achieved a pleasing set of results with its small-scale but successful concerts, thus ideally complementing the other events in Ringier Entertainment’s portfolio.
2014 was a record year for Ringier Digital in every respect. By jointly acquiring a majority stake in the Scout 24 Switzerland Group, alongside the investment firm KKR as its new co-investor, Ringier substantially expanded its presence in online marketplaces. As one of the world’s leading investment firms, KKR has the requisite expertise to ensure that the ongoing development of Ringier Digital’s car, real-estate and other online advertising services is carried out to the highest professional standards. AutoScout24, ImmoScout24 and Anibis already hold leading positions in their respective segments of Switzerland’s online marketplace arena.
Thanks to its stake in JobCloud AG, which operates a wide range of online employment portals on one common platform, Ringier Digital has now established a leadership position across the entire online classified advertising market.
AutoScout24 substantially enhanced its role in the marketing of new cars, thus building on the success its platform had already established in the used-car market. A total of 150,000 vehicles are currently registered with AutoScout 24, which attracts 931,000 unique users every month. 2014 saw both Scout 24 and JobCloud achieve their best results to date.
DeinDeal, the e-commerce firm founded five years ago, is now one of the ten largest online retailers in Switzerland. In 2014, the company processed more than 560,000 orders, of which over 34 percent were generated on smartphones or tablet computers. E-commerce platforms such as Geschenkidee, Qualipet Digital, cash zweiplus and Recommerce (Verkaufen.ch) have also seen a substantial increase in the proportion of overall business volumes originated on mobile devices.
By establishing Ringier Digital Ventures AG, Ringier has not only created a vehicle for investing in start-up companies but has also been able to position itself as an attractive business partner for new entrepreneurial talent.
In Eastern Europe, Ringier Axel Springer Media AG operates as a joint venture between Ringier AG and Axel Springer SE. The company is the leading newspaper and magazine publisher in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Serbia, with a portfolio encompassing more than 160 digital and print-media offerings. In 2014, Ringier Axel Springer Media AG concentrated its efforts on digitalizing its businesses and diversifying its portfolio. A significant milestone was achieved in this regard on November 1, 2014, when the two parent companies’ Hungarian operations were incorporated into the joint venture. Ringier Axel Springer Media AG now already generates more than 33 percent of its overall revenue from its digital businesses.
Through its stake in Onet, Poland’s leading online group, Ringier Axel Springer Media reaches some 70 percent of all internet users in Poland. The joint venture publishes Fakt, Poland’s leading business newspaper, and Przeglad Sportowy, the national sports daily. This makes it Poland’s largest newspaper publisher, with a 46.7 percent share of all newspapers sold in the country. In 2014, Onet also acquired an 80 percent interest in both Skapiec.pl, the second-largest retail comparison website in Poland, and Opineo.pl, the country’s leading product-comparison platform. 2014 also saw Ringier Axel Springer Media and Onet join forces to establish Media Impact Polska, the largest media sales organization in Poland.
In Slovakia, Azet.sk, in which Ringier Axel Springer Media owns a majority stake, is the largest online portal, reaching 83.2 percent of the country’s internet users. The joint venture’s leading position in the Slovak print-media market is largely attributable to its Novy Cas brands, which encompass two newspapers and four magazines. The Novy Cas tabloid daily has a 45.2 percent market share, making it Slovakia’s most widely read newspaper.
In Serbia, the joint venture’s three newspapers, seven magazines and associated online offerings make it the country’s largest newspaper and magazine publisher, both in terms of overall circulation and market coverage. Its two tabloid titles, Alo! and Blic, have the largest circulation in Serbia.
In October 2014, after approval had been granted by Hungary’s competition and media regulators, the Hungarian portfolios owned by Axel Springer and Ringier (most notably tabloid titles such as Blikk and a number of women’s magazines) were incorporated into the joint-venture structure. 2014 also saw Ringier Axel Springer Media enter into an agreement to acquire Profession.hu, the largest online employment portal in Hungary with 489,000 users. This transaction is scheduled for completion in the first half of 2015, once approval by the Hungarian competition regulator has been granted.
The joint venture’s disposal of its businesses in the Czech Republic, which are predominantly print-based, came into contractual effect at the end of April 2014. The 16.7 percent decline in the joint venture’s revenue between 2013 and 2014 is principally due to the sale of its interests in the Czech Republic.
Thanks to the strong brands in its portfolio, Ringier Romania was able to achieve steady growth in 2014. The company acquired all the shares in the Romanian online employment portal eJobs.ro in the spring of 2015. This, along with its existing Sportnews.ro platform and the online offerings associated with its Libertatea and Unica print titles, helped Ringier’s Romanian operations to achieve a significant increase in the proportion of their overall revenue generated from their digital businesses. 2014 also saw the successful relaunch of the Romanian edition of Glamour, rapidly making Ringier Romania the leading publisher in the premium segment of the local women’s magazine market.
After first establishing its operations in Africa four years ago, Ringier now operates ten online platforms in five African markets. Six of these are leaders in their respective segments, including Pulse.ng in Nigeria, which now attracts well over two million unique visits each month. Similar success has been achieved by classified-advertising platforms such as Expat-dakar.com in Senegal and Zoomtanzania.com in Tanzania, not to mention the Rupu.co.ke e-commerce platform in Kenya and Tisu.com.gh, its counterpart in Ghana. All played a significant part in enabling Ringier to increase its African revenue by a factor of six in 2014.
Ringier Asia Pacific intensified its collaboration with its parent company during 2014, placing a clear emphasis on the modernization and further development of its product line. Ringier Vietnam significantly expanded its digital businesses. Within the space of one year, Marrybaby.vn, a platform devoted to products for babies and young children, attracted 160,000 active members, making it the company’s most popular website, while the real-estate platform Muabannhadat.com.vn was given its own dedicated management team in 2014. The company’s publishing operations also performed well, with the local editions of Elle and Women’s Health both increasing their revenues.
Significant reorganization was carried out at Ringier China and the sales and marketing functions were merged into one integrated unit. This enabled the company’s English-language titles to achieve their 2014 objectives, as most notably evidenced by the impressive 86 percent increase in revenue at City Weekend. Ringier China also successfully negotiated an extension to its collaboration agreement with the Chinese civil-aviation authorities under which it will continue to publish CAAC Inflight Magazine for the next ten years. The magazine is distributed on all flights operated by China’s seven largest airlines and is read by 7.4 million passengers each month.
Ringier AG, Corporate Communications