DPG Media posts impressive numbers for 2021, writes CFO Piet Vroman (54).
PG Media generated revenue growth of 7.5 percent to just under €1.9 billion in 2021. In 2020 the activities of sanoma Nederland were only included in the consolidation from 1 April. The first full-year consolidation caused consolidated revenue to grow by a further €70 million in 2021, largely due to reader revenue, which rose to €874 million in 2021. On an organic basis, this revenue grew by 2 percent, again due to growth in digital volumes combined with price increases.
Advertising revenue fell by 13 percent in 2020, mainly due to a sharp decline in the second quarter at the outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis and the associated lockdowns. Almost all types of media recovered to pre-coronavirus levels in 2021.
“In just one year, paper prices have risen from the lowest to the highest level in many decades”
After substantial growth in the TV advertising market was remarkable. The group's total advertising revenue grew to €589 million, representing organic growth of 19 percent. Online services also showed excellent growth again in the past year. Mobile Vikings was deconsolidated from June following the sale to Proximus, causing a €30 million decrease in consolidated revenue. Costs remained lower in 2021, mainly due to exceptionally low raw material prices, as well as the consequences of the coronavirus crisis. Personnel expenses nevertheless rose by 6 percent to half a billion euros.
EBITDA grew by 22 percent to €414 million, with 21.8 percent revenue growth and EBITA of €330 million. The Dutch activities – which grew by 28 percent – contributed two-thirds of this group operating profit. Belgian EBITA grew by 36 percent and made up 31 percent of the group figure, while the Danish operating profit remained constant.
The tax charge amounted to almost €90 million, representing an increase of 41 percent, after which the net profit before goodwill amortisation and capital gains rose by 28 percent to €228 million. In addition to this recurring profit, capital gains of €117 million were also recorded, mainly due to the sale of Mobile Vikings. (*)
The operating free cash flow was also high this year at €268 million. This enabled the pace of debt reduction to be accelerated. Barely 20 months after the acquisition of Sanoma Nederland, the group’s debt level was reduced by more than half a billion euros. At the end of 2021 the group’s net financial debt amounted to €243 million, or 0.6 times the 2021 EBITDA.
For 2022 the group expects fairly stable revenue, whereas costs are set to rise substantially across the group as a whole. In just one year, paper prices have risen from the lowest to the highest level in many decades. Other costs, particularly wages, will also show the effect of accelerating inflation. After an absolute record year in 2021, this will almost inevitably lead to a decrease in profit and cash flow in 2022.
The group is nevertheless planning major investments again in 2022, so that we can continue working energetically on our digital transformation, across all platforms. More than €240 million has been earmarked for these projects over a three-year period. This is being partly financed by a long-term loan from the European Investment Bank.
In the spring of 2022 the group also hopes to comple- te the acquisition of RTL Belgium that was announced in June 2021. This acquisition is being conducted on a 50-50 basis with Groupe Rossel and will require expenditure of more than €100 million by the group.
Work began in 2021 on the construction of a new office building in Amsterdam which will house the bulk of our Dutch activities from mid-2024. These two investments will absorb a substantial part of the operating free cash flow in 2022.
(*) The group consolidates its accounts under Belgian GAAP, which means among other things that goodwill is amortised. The amortisation charge in 2021 was €124 million. Net group profit after amortisation of goodwill amounts to €221 million. Equity has risen to €447 million.