Bertelsmann Achieves First-Half Operating Group Profit Exceeding Half-Billion Euros for the First Time

Bertelsmann had a successful first half of 2017. The international media, services, and education company reports revenue growth, operating EBITDA at a high level, and a first-half operating Group result of over €500 million for the first time in its history. The Group achieved further progress in implementing its growth strategy, and among other major initiatives signed an agreement to increase its stake in the world’s largest trade publishing group, Penguin Random House, to a strategic majority of 75 percent.

Bertelsmann increased its Group revenues by 2.1 percent to €8.1 billion in the reporting period (H1 2016: €8.0 billion). Organic growth improved to 1.4 percent (H1 2016: 1.3 percent). RTL Group’s digital TV businesses, the digital activities of Gruner + Jahr and BMG, Arvato SCM Solutions and the Bertelsmann Education Group in particular developed  positively. Growth businesses grew by 9 percent to €2.7 billion (H1 2016: €2.3 billion). For the first time, they accounted for more than 30 percent of total sales.

At €1.10 billion (H1 2016: €1.11 billion), operating EBITDA nearly reached the record level of the prior-year period, although that previous result reflected a positive €43 million effect at RTL Group. In the first six months of 2017, RTL Group and the Bertelsmann Education Group incurred €37 million in start-up losses for digital and new business.

Consolidated net income amounted to €502 million (H1 2016: €482 million). The Bertelsmann Asia Investments (BAI) fund once again made a significant contribution to earnings, with €63 million in gains on disposals.

Bertelsmann Chairman & CEO Thomas Rabe said: “Bertelsmann looks back on a successful first half. The increase in revenues and earnings, as well as our improved growth profile, are the result of the systematic implementation of our strategy. The Penguin Random House ownership share increase, which we have been preparing over the past few months and will complete in the second half of the year, is especially worth noting. Bertelsmann will possess a strategic three-quarters majority in the world’s largest trade publishing group – the best possible conditions for successfully further developing this core business that is part of our identity.“

Rabe emphasized that Bertelsmann has made significant progress on all four of its strategic priorities this year – strengthening its core businesses, transforming to digital, extending its growth platforms and expanding in growth regions.

Bertelsmann strengthened its core in book publishing in particular with the announced increase in its Penguin Random House shareholding, from 53 percent to 75 percent. The completion of the share takeover is planned for the fourth quarter of 2017. Penguin Random House placed 263 titles on the “New York Times” bestseller lists, 37 of them at number one. The international publishing group’s Spanish-language businesses were augmented with the acquisition of the Ediciones B publishing group. In addition to Penguin Random House, other core businesses also expanded their activities: RTL Group’s families of channels increased their share of the viewer and advertising market in both Germany and France. Gruner + Jahr launched the new magazine “Hygge” among other accomplishments, and the Bertelsmann Printing Group’s capacities were well utilized.

Bertelsmann continued the digital transformation of its businesses. RTL Group announced its full acquisition of the advertising technology company SpotX. Among other initiatives, the Group also increased its share in VideoAmp; G+J further expanded the app-discovery platform AppLike. Compared to the same period of the previous year, digital revenues at RTL Group surged by 47 percent to €389 million in the first half of this year, and at Gruner + Jahr by 23 percent in the core markets to €128 million. Bertelsmann companies now collectively reach more than two billion followers worldwide on social media.

The Fremantle Media growth platform achieved worldwide audience successes, especially with the new series “American Gods.” BMG acquired the BBR Music Group in Nashville, the largest single acquisition in the recordings business since the music subsidiary was founded. The company also signed prominent artists such as Kylie Minogue and Fergie. Arvato expanded its international logistics network with new sites in Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.S. and acquired a stake in the Fintech start-up Solaris Bank. The educational activities also developed positively: The online education provider Relias Learning grew both organically and through acquisitions; Udacity was able to more than double its number of students during the reporting period.
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