Sales down, profits up at BPG

Jo Francis
Friday, September 3, 2021

Media and services giant Bertelsmann has reported first half results that include the reshaping of its gravure printing operations on the continent.

Bertelsmann: market-related decline in revenue at print wing
Bertelsmann: market-related decline in revenue at print wing

The overall group filed a record operating EBITDA of €1.4bn (£1.2bn), on sales up 10.7% at €8.7bn “significantly above the prior year and pre-corona levels”. 

Bertelsmann chairman and CEO Thomas Rabe said the first half of 2021 went very well for the business, “in particular, our three major revenue mainstays, RTL Group, Penguin Random House, and Arvato, saw significant gains”.

However, Bertelsmann Printing Group (BPG), which includes Prinovis and Mohn Media, continued to experience “market-related decline in revenue”.

Sales at the operation were down 4.1% at €624m, but EBITDA jumped 36.8% to €26m “thanks to cost optimisation measures, automation initiatives and continued growth in marketing services”.

BPG completed the closure of its Nuremberg gravure plant at the end of April following a planned shutdown process that had taken place over the course of two years.

Bertelsmann said its printing businesses in Germany recorded a significant decline in first-half revenues, “due primarily to the scheduled discontinuation of print production at the Nuremberg gravure plant end of April 2021”.

“The relevant gravure printing markets in Germany, France and the United Kingdom declined strongly in the first six months of 2021, while the corresponding offset markets declined moderately. The North American book printing market showed strong growth,” the group stated.  

In contrast, offset printer Mohn Media and GGP Media, which specialises in print solutions for book publishers, “recorded an overall positive business performance with a solid order situation in the first six months of the year”. 

Bertelsmann described the picture for its international printing activities as “varied”.

“While Prinovis in the UK was under pressure again, primarily due to declining volumes of supplements among major newspaper publishers, the printing group saw an improvement in its US business. The two book production sites in Fairfield and Martinsburg, acquired at the end of 2020 [from Quad/Graphics], were successfully integrated into the group in the first half of the year.”

BPG’s UK sales were €45m in the first half, down 21% on 2020. 

The Associated Newspapers Weekend and You supplements for the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, currently printed at Prinovis UK, are set to move to a new supplier next month. 

Book publisher Penguin Random House’s acquisition of Simon & Schuster, agreed in November 2020, received antitrust clearance from the UK Competition & Markets Authority in May. The US regulatory review is ongoing.

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