OSLO (Reuters) - Norway’s Schibsted beat forecasts with a 29 percent jump in fourth quarter core earnings and boosted its dividend, sending shares in the media group up more than 5 percent on Wednesday.
“This is our best quarterly profit ever,” said new CEO Kristin Skogen Lund, noting good cost control and higher revenue in its traditional media division, which includes daily newspapers such as Sweden’s Aftonbladet.
Schibsted’s core profit, or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), rose to 897 million crowns ($104 million) in the fourth quarter, beating a forecast of 850 million in a Reuters poll of analysts.
Its shares were trading up 5.3 percent at 1029 GMT, placing it among the best performers of the European stoxx 600 index, which was up 0.3 percent.
The company said it remains on track to list its non-Nordic online classified ads business (MPI) on the Oslo Bourse on April 10, a much-anticipated spin-off that is expected to see rapid growth in the years ahead.
“Schibsted (excluding MPI) expects to see good revenue development for marketplace operations Finn.no (in Norway), Blocket.se (in Sweden) and Tori.fi (in Finland) driven by increased monetization of verticals and development of value-added services,” JP Morgan said in a note to clients.
The CEO of MPI, Rolv Erik Ryssdal, was particularly upbeat about Brazil, a key growth market, that posted a negative result in the quarter.
“Brazil is still an emerging market so things are developing rapidly,” Ryssdal told Reuters. “There are still a lot of businesses that trade offline, like the car dealers, (that can be put online) ... And with the election of the new president, there is a positive feeling in the economy.”
MPI will be looking to expand to new countries by buying existing businesses rather than build news businesses from scratch, Ryssdal added. Schibsted, and MPI, are already present in France with leboncoin.fr, Spain, Sweden, Morocco and Tunisia, among others.
“(We would focus on) markets that are adjacent to our existing ones,” he said. “Europe is very important for us .... we have selected emerging markets, mostly in Latin America and in north Africa.”
Following a writedown, the company’s net result swung to a loss for the quarter of 199 million crowns from a year-ago profit of 207 million.
Nevertheless, Schibsted’s board proposed raising the annual dividend to 2 crowns per share, more than expected after 1.75 crowns has been paid for each of the last seven years.
Additional reporting by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle