When I agreed almost two years ago to act as Chairman of the Board, it was with the ambition, together with management and board, to come up with a simpler structure for the Group. I wanted to ensure that our companies have managements and boards that are keen to reverse the undesirable development in both turnover and results of the last years.
At the risk of sounding like a well-known president, we can now tick these ambitions off the list. Erik Haegerstrand and his team have, in cooperation with the companies, made impressive adjustments, with a trimmed parent company and more independent business operations as a result.
What pleases me the most is the fact that we have so many talented members of staff to lead and operate our companies. I am very happy that they want to be a part of Bonnier’s future.
We are also pleased that during the year we completed the sale of Bonnier Broadcasting’s TV operations, with TV4, C More and Finnish MTV. After being burdened with debt for several years, finances are stronger than in decades. The broadcasting deal has made the Group almost free from debt, which opens up entirely new opportunities for the future.
The Group’s earnings are increasing for the first time in many years, and we are definitely on the right track. We have not yet reached a level to be proud of and pleased with, but there are good reasons to be happy and hopeful. All companies but one improved their results compared with the previous year. It has been a long time since this happened. And after 10 years of declining turnover, the Group increased its sales, not counting the divested Broadcasting business.
The budget for 2020 and the three-year plans promise good years ahead. We also have a number of exciting new initiatives. I can’t help but think it will go well.
The foundation has been laid, and now it is time for the next phase.
Chairman of the Board
We have entered a new decade, still a clean sheet. What characterized the 2010s for Bonnier?
“It was an eventful decade for Bonnier. Early on, we saw the digitalization in the media industry. In the 2010s this development seriously caught on. Digital technology gave us entirely new competitors, formats and business models. It became necessary to switch to digital services. One reason we sold Broadcasting was that streaming services completely changed the conditions for television. At the same time, the Group’s real estate business and asset management had positive growth.”
What lies ahead for Bonnier in the 2020s?
“The sale of Broadcasting has greatly strengthened our financial base. We can act in a more long-term manner and continue to invest in developing our historic core in journalism and publishing, while adding operations in growth industries.”
Some may be wondering where Bonnier is heading after the sale of the TV
business. How do you reply to this?
“The entrepreneurial drive has been central to Bonnier ever since the start more than 200 years ago. Businesses have come and gone as conditions have changed. Our strengthened resources and the new decentralized structure will accelerate the growth of our companies. We will be able to make investments that were previously difficult to finance.”
If we look at the companies and at
Bonnier News in particular, what would you like to highlight from the past year?
“Bonnier News’s initiative to focus on local media probably ended up in the background due to the sale of Broadcasting. Local journalism was strengthened with the purchase of MittMedia and Lokaltidningen. We also see great business opportunities ahead.”
There are also some exciting opportunities for Bonnier Books?
“Yes, with regard to Bonnier Books, we see strong growth for BookBeat, which is now properly launched also in Germany. But even though new technology and new consumer behavior are of great importance to our businesses, Bonnier Books showed in 2019 that the success also lies in doing what we have always been best at. Several of our publications attracted a lot of attention. Two Bonnier-published authors were awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. The publishers in Germany impressed with the best result for Bonnier Media Deutschland in 10 years, without the influence of any actual best sellers.”
And the Group’s other publishing
“SF Studios has had a positive growth for a few years, and the conditions for 2020 are good. Bonnier Corporation and Bonnier
Publications operate in changing markets and therefore face interesting challenges. Bonnier Publications reported another fantastic result in 2019.”
What is happening at Adlibris?
“Adlibris has recently invested in logistics, and the 2019 Christmas season was good. In addition to improved logistics, the management is looking at the range of products on offer.”
The sale of the TV business has given Bonnier more room for investment, and Bonnier Ventures plays an important part. What is happening there?
“Bonnier Ventures continues to invest in, and build, exciting startups. The growth in value has been strong. We are also finding companies that could become new business opportunities for Bonnier.”
What is Bonnier Fastigheter’s role in the new structure?
“In a family-owned company, it is important to spread the financial risk. Through the sale of our TV business, our dependence on advertising revenue lessens, but we continue to be very dependent on traditional media. Real estate is therefore a very important part of our business and has the greatest value. It is also really exciting that in 2019, Bonnier Fastigheter started investing in residential properties, specifically to spread the risks. Bonnier Fastigheter’s result and cash flow
are impressive. The asset management of Boninvest is another way to diversify.”
What is most important in 2020?
“Continued improvement in earnings and cash flow from the companies. We will also focus on lowering our central costs, which we are already well on the way of doing.”