Ringier and Axel Springer combine their Eastern European operations

Ringier and Axel Springer will combine their operations in five Eastern European countries in a new company that will be headquartered in Zurich. Each partner will hold 50 percent of the new company. It is expected to go public in three to five years.

The media enterprise had sales on a pro-forma basis in 2009 totaling approximately €414 million and an EBITDA of €62 million and 4800 employees.

The joint venture is subject to the approval of the responsible antitrust authorities. The name of the new company will be announced at a later date.

Axel Springer will contribute the business of its subsidiaries in Poland, Czech, and Hungary, while Ringier will bring its operations in Serbia, Slovakia, Czech, and Hungary to the joint venture. As a result, both companies will significantly enhance their positions in these growth markets with more than 100 print and over 70 online publications.

"For both companies, this partnership is an excellent opportunity to considerably increase our journalistic core business with five market-leading popular newspapers in attractive growth markets, and it establishes optimal conditions for future expansion in the era of digitalization," said Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer.

The Board of Directors, chaired by Ralph Büchi, President Axel Springer International, will consist of two representatives each from Ringier AG and Axel Springer AG. The joint venture will be headed by Florian Fels (photo), currently CEO Central Europe of Ringier AG.

At the end of the turnaround process started earlier this year, Ringier Romania will be integrated in this joint venture.

Ringier Romania posted revenues of 171.8 million lei (€46.6 million) for 2008, down 27% from 216.9 million lei a year earlier. Furthermore, the tight competition and currency fluctuations have eroded the media company’s profit margin by 4% to 6% in 2008. Ringier Romania’s 2008 profit stood at 13 million lei (€3.53 million).

The media company sold in February Evenimentul zilei and Capital titles to Bobby Paunescu.

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