Letter from the CEO

Dear Readers,
Dear Friends of Bertelsmann,

Thomas Rabe
Chairman & CEO of Bertelsmann

Bertelsmann looks back on a successful year. Our business performance in 2015 was strong, marked by an increase in revenues, operating result and Group

Revenues grew by 2.8 percent to €17.1 billion. Our content, services and education businesses all contributed to this. Operating EBITDA rose significantly, by more than €100 million to nearly €2.5 billion. Group profit surged by more than 90 percent year on year to €1.1 billion – the highest value since 2006. Alongside the improved operating performance, this was also attributable to a lower debit from special items.

In addition to this very gratifying business performance, we made great progress in implementing our strategy of making Bertelsmann a more digital, more international and faster-growing company.

The strengthening of our core is documented, for example, by the further expansion of RTL Group’s families of channels; the near-completed integration of Penguin and Random House; the successful launch of new magazine titles by Gruner + Jahr; and the reorganization of Arvato to give the individual Solution Groups greater entrepreneurial freedom. In 2015, we also completed the formation of the Bertelsmann Printing Group, which as of January 1, 2016, has all of Bertelsmann’s offset and gravure printing activities combined into one unit for the first time.

At the same time, we continued to invest in the transformation to digital. RTL Group’s online video sites collectively generated 105 billion views, an increase of 188 percent year on year. Penguin Random House advanced its e-book catalog to over 110,000 titles. Gruner + Jahr expanded its digital business both organically and through acquisitions. And Arvato is increasingly becoming a service provider for digital transactions – as one example, for all major US technology companies.

We achieved significant progress in the development of our growth platforms with our education businesses, which have been pooled since September 2015 into the Bertelsmann Education Group. The most important milestones were the acquisition of a stake in the online education platform HotChalk; the increase of our holdings in Udacity, an online learning provider for technology; and the organic and acquisitive expansion of Relias Learning, an online education provider in the healthcare sector.

We also strengthened our footprint in the growth regions. In Brazil, Bertelsmann invested in Affero Lab, the market leader in continuing education, and Arvato acquired a stake in the financial services provider Intervalor. In India, Bertelsmann expanded its holdings in Pepperfry, a leading online marketplace for furniture, and the music streaming service Saavn. And in China, our Bertelsmann Asia Investments (BAI) fund invested in more new companies than in any previous year; the BAI portfolio’s market value indicators increased significantly year on year.

These and other measures helped us increase the revenue share of growth businesses from 25 to 28 percent compared to last year, and reduce the share from structurally declining businesses from 8 to 5 percent. We plan to build on these results in the next few years – as a diversified company that stands on three pillars: media, services and education. I would like to thank all our colleagues who are working to build the new Bertelsmann with commitment, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. I am pleased that you are accompanying us on this journey!

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Rabe