"Old aunt" opens her piggy bank

NZZ The Zurich media group is in the red and has to get down to business.

NZZ The Zurich media group is in the red and needs to take action. "With the current development in the advertising market, we have to optimize costs and look for the cheapest possible solutions." Hugo Bütler is aware of the need for action at the NZZ Group. As Chairman of the Group Management Board, he had to announce a loss of 49.7 million francs for 2002. A 27 percent drop in advertising sales at Neue Zürcher Zeitung tore a hole in the cash register, as did the launch of NZZ am Sonntag (NZZaS), the problems at Bund-Verlag and a weak financial result.individual products are not up for discussion at NZZ, as Bütler assures us. Especially not the NZZaS. It is true that it is the largest loss-making item in the annual accounts. However, with a loss of CHF 16 million, it closed the year several million better than expected. According to Bütler, income was higher and editorial, printing and distribution costs were lower than budgeted. He is keeping his cards close to his chest for the current year: "Depending on developments, we will optimize costs, but we have not announced a cost-cutting program for the NZZ am Sonntag."
Optimization alone will not be enough to turn around the Bund-Verlag. The Bernese subsidiary brought the NZZ Group a loss of eight million francs. This "cannot be absorbed to this extent in the long term", wrote the NZZ business editorial team. Bütler confirms this. Nevertheless, he is convinced that there is room for a second title in the Bern area alongside the Berner Zeitung. To ensure a viable future, however, the Confederation would have to be involved in cooperative ventures. Various options are currently being negotiated intensively. Bütler did not want to make any statements about possible partners, but he held out the prospect of decisions before the end of the year.
Satisfactory level for ticket
The Confederation recently saved money by discontinuing the Ansager magazine. For Hugo Bütler, this strategy is out of the question at NZZ. Even if NZZ Ticket costs more than it brings in: "Information about cultural events is a service that we definitely want to provide." NZZ Ticket is particularly popular with female readers and younger readers. In order to raise the volume of advertisements to a satisfactory level, new efforts have been made in sales.
The NZZ Group achieved black figures with NZZ Folio, NZZ Format and Presse-TV. The financial result, on the other hand, was poor. While capital investments delivered double-digit million profits to Falkenstrasse at the end of the nineties, they were responsible for 40 percent of the loss in 2002. At the same time, equity fell drastically because the goodwill of CHF 104 million arising from the investment in LZ Medien Holding (41.75 percent) was offset directly against equity. Without this measure, the LZ holding would have increased the 2002 loss by around CHF 12 million.
Bütler considers the Lucerne commitment to be "an investment in the future that may prove to be a wise disposition in a difficult year". However, he does not expect any significant contributions from the "second pillar" of the financial result in the near future. The days when NZZ was a bank and published a newspaper on the side are probably over for now.
NZZ Group Manager Hugo Bütler.
Key figures of the NZZ Group (in CHF million)
1999 2000 2001 2002
Total operating income 479.2 531.9 513.1 481.5
Change in % +6.2 +11.0 -3.5 -6.2
Operating result 46.3 51.4 5.9 -31.8
Financial result (net) 16.3 16.9 -1.8 -21.0
Cash flow 82.3 90.4 41.6 -14.0
Group result 45.2 50.3 1.3 -49.7
Equity 419.1 463.5 452.9 293.4
Advertising pages 2001 2002Neue Zürcher Zeitung 9974 7617
St.Galler Tagblatt 6089 4944
The Confederation 4016 2872
NZZ am Sonntag - 1488
Results of individual business divisions (in CHF million)
Sales Change in cash flow
Neue Zürcher Zeitung AG: 193.4 -5% -6.1
St.Galler-Tagblatt Group: 130.1 -7% +10.7
Bund Group 54.5 -13% -6.7
Business pressure 96.6 -4% +8.8
BuchsMedien 15.5 -8% +1.1
(Source: Neue Zürcher Zeitung)
Stefano Monachesi

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