Europe’s leading entertainment network recorded a positive performance in 2015, increasing both its revenues and operating profit. RTL Group’s revenues increased by 3.8 percent to €6.0 billion (previous year: €5.8 billion), mainly due to the encouraging development of the European advertising markets, the strong expansion of the digital business, and positive exchange rate effects. Operating EBITDA increased by 1.6 percent to €1.4 billion (previous year: €1.3 billion) in the reporting period. Significantly higher earnings contributions from Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland and RTL Hungary more than offset declines in Fremantle Media’s content production business. The EBITDA margin was 22.5 percent (previous year: 23.0 percent). RTL Group employed 12,258 people at year-end.
The European TV advertising markets that RTL Group operates in all grew or remained stable in 2015. Germany in particular recorded growth, with Mediengruppe RTL outperforming the market. Both revenues and earnings once again reached record levels, driven among other things by increasing advertising revenues and a growing distribution business. The flagship channel, RTL Television, remained the clear market leader in the primary target group, despite a slight decline in viewer numbers.
Groupe M6 in France saw a moderate decline in revenues and a slightly lower operating EBITDA, against the background of the sale of the e-commerce platform Mistergooddeal in the previous year and lower revenues from the home shopping business. The broadcasting group was able to increase its audience share overall. In the Netherlands, RTL Nederland achieved higher revenues partly thanks to growing distribution revenues; the operating result remained stable. RTL Nederland further consolidated its clear lead among viewers.
The production arm Fremantle Media increased its revenues primarily due to positive exchange rate effects. The operating result was down, partly due to a lower earnings contribution from the “American Idol” format and increased investment in new formats. The company achieved international successes with series like “Deutschland 83,” which was produced for RTL Television, sold in the United States during the year under review, and subsequently in numerous other countries.
RTL Group continued to invest in its three strategic mainstays of business – broadcast, content and digital – and in 2015 launched four new linear TV channels: In March, three special-interest pay TV channels were launched in Croatia, and in September, the news channel RTL Z in the Netherlands. The production business was expanded: Fremantle Media acquired shares in the production companies Full Fat TV and Naked Entertainment in Britain, Wildside in Italy, Fontaram and Kwaï in France and No Pictures Please in the Netherlands, strengthening the company’s creative diversity in the scripted, entertainment and factual genres.
RTL Group’s digital revenues increased by 72 percent, soaring past the €500 million mark; its contribution to total revenues doubled to eight percent in the reporting period. RTL Group’s various platforms and offers generated 105 billion online video views – a year-on-year increase of 188 percent. The companies of the RTL Digital Hub founded in June – especially BroadbandTV, StyleHaul and SpotX – each significantly increased their revenues by high double-digit rates.
Penguin Random House
The world’s leading trade book publisher Penguin Random House significantly increased both its revenue and operating profit in the financial year 2015. Its revenues increased 11.8 percent to €3.7 billion (previous year: €3.3 billion) in stable market environments across its territories, thanks to positive exchange rate effects. Operating EBITDA rose sharply by 23.2 percent to €557 million (previous year: €452 million). Besides the exchange rate effects, this is attributable to savings from the largely completed integration of Penguin and Random House, whose businesses were merged on July 1, 2013, and a strong bestseller lineup. The EBITDA margin was 15.0 percent (previous year: 13.6 percent). The book publishing group, whose shares – with the exception of the German business, which is wholly owned by Bertelsmann – are 53 percent owned by Bertelsmann and 47 percent owned by Pearson, employed 10,582 people at year-end.
Among the year’s top performers was Paula Hawkins’s debut novel “The Girl on the Train,” which sold more than seven million copies in the English- and German-speaking world across all Penguin Random House formats – print, e-book and audiobook. “Grey,” the new E L James novel in the “Fifty Shades” series, sold 8.5 million copies in English, German and Spanish. Exceptional bestsellers in children’s and young adult books included Dr. Seuss titles, which collectively sold 10.8 million copies, and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School” by Jeff Kinney, which sold 1.2 million copies.
In the United States, Penguin Random House publishers placed 584 print and e-book titles in the “New York Times” bestseller lists, 79 at number one. Among these were “Rogue Lawyer” by John Grisham, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Numerous children’s books did very well, including “Paper Towns” by John Green, as well as new fiction by James Dashner and Rick Yancey. Revenues and earnings were up on the previous year.
Penguin Random House UK grew profitably. Its publishers placed 211 titles in the “Sunday Times” bestseller lists, 31 at number one. Here, the most popular books included “Grey” by E L James and “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins, as well as fiction by Harper Lee and Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School.”
Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial saw the beginnings of a recovery amidst the ongoing volatility of the marketplace in Spain. Latin America also experienced some growth. Bestsellers included “Hombres buenos” by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, “El amante japonés” by Isabel Allende and “El mundo azul” by Albert Espinosa. Meaningful progress was made on integrating the Spanish- and Portugueselanguage publishing activities of Santillana Ediciones Generales, which was acquired in 2014.
Verlagsgruppe Random House in Germany increased its revenues and achieved a record operating result, outperforming the market. Its top-selling titles were “Die Betrogene” by Charlotte Link and “Altes Land” by Dörte Hansen.
Penguin Random House further expanded its digital business across all markets. However, in the United States, e-book sales were affected by new retail sales terms. During the reporting year, the publishing group sold the self-publishing unit Author Solutions and the Australian online bookseller Bookworld.Penguin Random House authors won numerous prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Biography for “The Pope and Mussolini” by David I. Kertzer, and the Man Booker Prize for “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James.
Gruner + Jahr
In the financial year 2015, Gruner + Jahr continued its strategic transformation to a leading house of content. Due to divestments and the deconsolidation of the businesses in Asia during the prior period, and the general trend in the ad sales market, G+J’s revenues declined by 12 percent to €1.54 billion (previous year: €1.75 billion). In the core markets of Germany and France, however, revenues from digital activities continued to increase. As a result of overall declining revenues and continued high expenditure on expanding the digital businesses, operating EBITDA declined by 22.9 percent to €128 million (previous year: €166 million). The EBITDA margin was 8.3 percent (previous year: 9.5 percent). At the end of the year, G+J had 13,245 employees.
In November 2015, the decision was made to transfer the Arvato subsidiary Medienfabrik to Gruner + Jahr with effect from January 1, 2016, and merge it with G+J Corporate Editors to create Germany’s biggest provider of content communications. At year-end, G+J acquired the startup Employour, which specializes in student marketing.
G+J Germany’s revenues and earnings were down, reflecting a significant decline in print ad sales. Circulation revenues were stable, bucking the general market trend, thanks to a print campaign and adjusted cover prices. G+J invested in the expansion of its magazine portfolio (“Barbara,” “Brigitte Wir,” “Stern Crime,” “National Geographic Traveler”) as well as in digital activities. For instance, the company acquired the specialized gift ideas e-commerce provider Danato and fully acquired the food platform Delinero. G+J entered into a strategic partnership with the Dutch startup Blendle, and also set aside a total of €50 million in funds and media services to invest in startups and innovations. In addition, first projects from the Greenhouse innovation lab were realized. G+J EMS expanded its position as a premium cross-media marketer. The company’s growth is partly attributable to innovative native advertising products, i.e., “programmatic” and word-of-mouth campaigns.
Motor Presse Stuttgart posted lower revenues, mainly due to the sale of the business in France, but its earnings improved thanks to cost-cutting measures. The DDV Media Group in Saxony reported an increase in revenues thanks to higher proceeds from sales and new businesses that are going well, but earnings decreased due to the introduction of the minimum wage.
Revenues in the international business showed some organic growth in 2015, but declined overall. In France, the G+J subsidiary Prisma Media increased its revenues slightly, but its operating EBITDA fell slightly despite a fast-growing digital business. The video marketer Advideum recorded a particularly successful development. Activities in Austria remained below last year’s revenues and earnings figures. The Austrian press market remained under strong pressure, which is also reflected in the performance of Verlagsgruppe News, but the group gained additional market share in the advertising business. Gruner + Jahr’s activities in China declined markedly, reflecting the reduced growth momentum in the country; since the end of 2014, Boda’s businesses have only been consolidated at equity.
Business activities in Spain recorded a clear upward trend in earnings thanks to cost-cutting measures, and were profitable again for the first time since 2010. G+J Netherlands recorded largely stable revenues and earnings. On July 1, 2015, G+J withdrew from the Italian market due to a lack of strategic prospects, selling its 50 percent stake in the joint venture Gruner + Jahr/Mondadori.
In 2015, numerous G+J journalists and authors once again won awards for their work.
The international services provider Arvato recorded moderate revenue growth and a slight increase in operating profit for the financial year 2015. Revenues grew both through acquisitions and organically, by a total of 4.0 percent to €4.8 billion (previous year: €4.7 billion). Despite macroeconomic challenges in a few markets, and start-up costs for new projects, operating EBITDA rose by 2.6 percent to €394 million (previous year: €384 million). The EBITDA margin was 8.1 percent after 8.2 percent last year. Arvato employed 72,457 people at the end of the year.
In July, Arvato’s management changed; the division has since been under the management of a team led by CEO Fernando Carro. The CEOs of the three major Solution Groups – Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Supply Chain Management (SCM), and Financial Solutions – were each appointed to the Bertelsmann Group Management Committee (GMC). Arvato’s print and replication businesses were transferred to the newly founded Bertelsmann Printing Group with effect from January 1, 2016, and the communications agency Medienfabrik was transferred to the Bertelsmann subsidiary Gruner + Jahr. These changes enable Arvato to focus on its fast-growing services businesses.
The revenues and earnings of the CRM Solution Group rose significantly during the year. The business continued its transformation from customer phone services toward comprehensive digital communication services. The CRM Solution Group won important new customers in the healthcare and IT/Internet sectors.
The SCM Solution Group expanded its existing customer relationships in Germany and internationally in 2015. Revenues and earnings were up slightly. Positive impetus came from the US business, the strategic growth area of e-commerce services, and from solutions for the healthcare industry.
The Financial Solutions unit increased its revenues in the reporting period, while keeping its operating result stable at a high level. This was supported mainly by a positive business performance in Scandinavia and the German-speaking countries. The acquisition of a 40 percent stake in the Brazilian financial services provider Intervalor on June 1, 2015, marked Arvato’s successful entry into the Latin American financial services market.
Demand for the application development and system integration services provided by the IT Solution Group remained at a constantly high level in 2015. This performance was obscured by high set-up costs in a major project and a downturn in the United States. Revenues for the IT businesses were up, while earnings fell slightly. In the Digital Marketing Solution Group, the transformation of existing business was further advanced in 2015.
Revenues and earnings from Arvato’s print businesses softened. Meanwhile, additional investments consolidated their technology leadership. Revenues from storage media replication declined as expected; Arvato discontinued its replication activities in the United States at year-end.
Bertelsmann’s European gravure printing activities and international offset and digital printers, which are pooled in the Be Printers division, recorded declining revenues and operating results for the financial year 2015. Be Printers’ revenues fell by 25.5 percent to €742 million in 2015 (previous year: €996 million). Operating EBITDA decreased by 26.6 percent to €47 million (previous year: €64 million). The EBITDA margin was 6.3 percent after 6.4 percent last year. At the end of the year, Be Printers employed 3,415 people.
The background to this development was primarily formed by divestments in Southern Europe and a market-driven operational downturn in the European gravure printing market. The technological change toward more offset and digital printing as well as shorter print runs for magazines, catalogs and print advertising additionally impacted gravure revenues. At the same time, existing contracts with major publishers such as Gruner + Jahr, Axel Springer and Klambt in Europe as well as with Sony Entertainment in the United States were extended.
In December 2015, Be Printers acquired the remaining 25.1 percent of shares in the Printing Group Prinovis from its erstwhile partner Axel Springer. The parent company Bertelsmann subsequently merged its offset and gravure printing activities at Arvato and Be Printers under the umbrella of the Bertelsmann Printing Group on January 1, 2016, thereby creating Europe’s biggest printing group. Various smaller media and services businesses as well as the replication business were also assigned to the new division.
Be Printers continued to focus on developing its quality and cost competitiveness in 2015. As part of its concentration on core markets, the company withdrew from Spain in the period under review. The Spanish printers Rotocobrhi in Madrid and Eurohueco in Barcelona were sold to the British print investor Walstead Capital in April 2015.
The European gravure printing company Prinovis expanded its range of services to accommodate lower print runs, additional formats and shorter lead times by putting two offset printing presses into operation in Dresden. However, due to lower order volumes overall, Prinovis recorded significant year-onyear declines in revenues and earnings.
Be Printers’ US printing plants faced declining market prices in the letterpress segment, but were able to more than compensate for this by expanding their business into other sectors with innovative print products.
Corporate Investments/Corporate Center
Corporate Investments, which includes all of Bertelsmann’s operating activities at Group level, did well in the financial year 2015, increasing both its revenues and operating result. Revenues grew by 22.4 percent to €624 million (previous year: €510 million), and operating EBITDA by 82 percent to €80 million (previous year: €44 million). The continued expansion of the music company BMG contributed to this, as did the expansion of the education business. The EBITDA margin was 12.8 percent after 8.6 percent in the previous year. At the end of the year, Corporate Investments had 4,654 employees.
In the reporting period, Bertelsmann made significant progress in developing its new education business. The company increased its participation in the online learning provider Udacity and became the largest shareholder of HotChalk, an online education platform in the United States. Relias Learning’s market position was strengthened by the acquisition of the e-learning provider RediLearning. Together with the Group’s other educational businesses, these companies have been pooled since September in the newly established Bertelsmann Education Group, which will commence operations as of January 1, 2016. In Brazil, Bertelsmann acquired a stake in Affero Lab, a leading B2B provider of corporate training.
BMG continued to make major strides in developing its interests in recorded music and audiovisual rights alongside its music publishing business, acquiring labels including Rise Records, which specializes in rock and metal, the pop label S-Curve Records and Atmosphériques in France. BMG also took over the Verse Music Group and Minder Music publishing catalogs, and rights in the Buddy Holly catalog in the United States. Renowned artists who have found a new home at BMG include Dave Stewart, Janet Jackson, Silbermond, Katie Melua and Emerson Lake & Palmer. In China, BMG entered into an extensive digital distribution agreement with Alibaba. In October, Janet Jackson led the Billboard Top 200 chart with “Unbreakable,” giving BMG its first number-one album in the United States.
The BDMI fund, which invests in digital companies mainly in the United States, and the BAI fund, which specializes in promising companies in China, acquired several new shareholdings. In Brazil, Bertelsmann and Bozano Investimentos jointly set up a new fund that focuses on education companies, especially in the healthcare sector. In India, the holdings in Pepperfry, the leading online marketplace for furniture, and in the music streaming service Saavn were expanded.
Der Club Bertelsmann discontinued its business activities in the German-speaking countries at year-end as planned.
In 2015, the Corporate Center supported the implementation of the corporate strategy with its four strategic priorities. In addition, as part of the Operational Excellence program, the establishment of a global network of Accounting Shared Services Centers was agreed upon. Global coordination and parts of the Group’s Germany-wide accounting services will largely be handled from Rheda in the future. Another focus of the Corporate Center was the integration of Arvato’s and parts of G+J’s administrative functions into the Group’s headquarters. The establishment of the Central HR Department reporting to the Executive Board, with a focus on education and talent management, was also advanced.