At the Board meeting today, the Board of Directors of Schibsted ASA approved the interim financial statement as of March 31, 2004.
Please find enclosed the Interim Report for 1st Quarter 2004
Information on internet:
(Figures in parentheses refer to the corresponding period in 2003.)
Schibsted’s operating revenues for the 1st quarter 2004 amounted to NOK 2,270 million, an increase of NOK 241 million compared to the corresponding period in 2003. Adjusted for exchange-rate changes, mainly related to SEK, the real increase in revenues is NOK 127 million. The operating profit (EBITA) increased to NOK 182 million (NOK 178 million).
The income from associated companies came to NOK -20 million in the 1st quarter 2004 (NOK -25 million). 20 Minutes debited the associated companies with its results for January and February and became a subsidiary as from 1 March. The regional newspapers and TV 2 posted results that were better than in 2003. However, there is some uncertainty relating to the further operations and financing of the Kanal 24 radio channel, which will require additional working capital at the beginning of June 2004. Schibsted has an indirect exposure in the radio channel through its ownership of TV 2, Adresseavisen, Fædrelandsvennen, Harstad Tidende and NTB. In this regard, the profits from associated companies have been reduced with a write-down of NOK 25 million.
Net financial items for the 1st quarter 2004 came to NOK -14 million (NOK -12 million). Since the year-end, the Group’s net interest-bearing debt has increased by NOK 0.5 billion to NOK 1.2 billion, mainly as a result of the acquisition of 20 Minutes. The Group’s total liquidity reserves equalled some NOK 1.7 billion at the end of the 1st quarter.
The Group has entered into a new syndicated multi-currency credit facility with a total borrowing limit of EUR 250 million. This facility is available as from 31 July 2004 and replaces the company’s current facility of USD 180 million. The facility consists of a five-year drawing facility of EUR 150 million and a 364-day facility of EUR 100 million. In connection with the 364-day facility, options have been entered into that enable the facility to be extended by 364-day periods up to four times, or to be converted into a long-term loan with a term of up to five years. The facility has been entered into on favourable market conditions based on EURIBOR plus a margin. The new facility will increase the company’s liquidity reserve by NOK 800 million to a total of NOK 2.5 billion.
The profit before tax from ordinary activities was NOK 129 million (NOK 126 million). The tax expenses during the 1st quarter 2004 came to NOK 39 million (NOK 40 million). As a result of differences between the accounting result and the tax base, the Group’s tax expenses may deviate from the nominal tax rate in Norway (28%). These differences are primarily related to amortisation of goodwill, income from associated companies and losses in foreign subsidiaries, for which no deferred tax benefit is recognised in the balance sheet. The profit per share and diluted profit per share were both NOK 1.14 (NOK 1.17).
In the 1st quarter, the Group invested NOK 47 million in fixed and intangible assets and NOK 473 million in shares. Schibsted increased its stake in 20 Min Holding AG during the 1st quarter from 41.5% to 98.7%. The amount paid for shares and loans came to EUR 50 million. Schibsted is obliged to buy further loans from former shareholders in 20 Min Holding AG in 2008/2009. The purchase price of these loans is estimated to be EUR 6-8 million. The acquisition of 20 Minutes leads to an increase of NOK 320 million in the Group’s goodwill. The increase in the stake in 20 Min Holding AG has also led to a reduction in the Group’s equity (minority interests) of NOK 187 million, mainly due to the consolidation of negative minority interests in the 20 Min Group relating to Express Zeitung AG’s 49.5% shareholding in 20 Min Holding AG’s subsidiary in Switzerland.
In accordance with the authorisation granted by the Annual General Meeting, Schibsted ASA has repurchased 1,490,518 shares. During the 1st quarter 2004, 60,000 of the company’s own shares were sold at a price of NOK 100 in connection with the exercise of management options. Following this transaction, the company owns 1,430,518 of its own shares.
The Group’s equity ratio was 36.3% at the end of the 1st quarter 2004 (35.9%).
20 Minutes’ developments have been very positive, and this company has increased its total revenues for the 1st quarter by 67% compared to the corresponding period last year. High growth is still expected throughout the year. Schibsted will continue to strengthen its positions in Spain and France.
Aftonbladet is also expected to continue posting strong figures in the future, while VG’s developments are expected to be stable.
The transition from paper to Internet is expected to continue. At the same time, the classified-advertisement markets are generally weak in Norway and Sweden, although they are starting to improve at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. Aftenposten is facing major challenges relating to the advertising market and to the implementation of the agreed profitability improvements. SvD’s ambitions to post a break-even result in 2004 seem to be more demanding than first assumed, mainly as a result of the poor developments in advertising revenues, although the newspaper’s circulation revenues have grown.
The Internet newspapers’ advertising revenues have increased sharply during the 1st quarter compared to the corresponding period last year. This trend is expected to continue.
During the 1st quarter, the Group has further strengthened its financial flexibility and is in a good position for further growth in accordance with the Group’s strategy. The refinancing of the company’s syndicate loan also increases the company’s liquidity reserve from NOK 1.7 billion to NOK 2.5 billion.