Profit slump at NZZ

The "old aunt" was only able to put 128,000 francs under her mattress in 2001

The "Old Aunt" was only able to put 128,000 francs under her mattress in 2001By Markus Knöpfli In 2001, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) publishing group made a profit of just 128,000 francs. This corresponds to a decrease of 99.75%. Group turnover, on the other hand, fell by only 3.5% to 513 million francs. At just under CHF 42 million, cash flow amounted to 8% of sales. In the previous year, it amounted to 17% of sales.
Conrad Meyer only just made it through his first year in office as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NZZ Group in the black. In the annual report, he rightly described the Group profit for 2001 of 128,000 francs as a "black zero". In 2000, the NZZ had reported a group profit of 50.28 million francs.
One reason for the poor performance is the CHF 29 million or 10.5% drop in advertising revenue. The volume for the three titles NZZ, Bund and St. Galler Tagblatt (SGT) fell by a total of 11.6%, with NZZ and Bund suffering particularly badly at minus 13%. However, the loss at Werdenberger&Obertoggenburger was limited. The Group's total income therefore fell by 3.5% to CHF 513 million. At the same time, operating expenses rose by CHF 28 million (+5.8%), which is explained by "extraordinary investment projects" (including NZZ am Sonntag).
In addition to the decline in advertising revenues, other factors contributed to the poor results of the individual NZZ subsidiaries. One source of loss is to be found in the capital investments of the parent company: It did not achieve any income from securities in 2001 and lost 16
million francs. The financial year of the Bund Group, which is suffering from the greatly expanded Berner Zeitung, is also described as "unpleasant". The only ray of hope at present is the realigned Radio BE1, whose listener numbers increased dramatically after the relaunch.
Reliable profits come from St.Gallen
There are two reasons why the Group did not slide into the red: Firstly, to the SGT Group, which delivered a respectable profit in Zurich (see also page 33) and to the cooperation already initiated between SGT and the federal government, which is intended to reduce costs. The Group's equity base is also positive: its equity ratio was 68.5%.
The NZZ is expecting another "difficult business year" in 2002, as NZZ CFO Jean-Philippe Rickenbach explained on request. But thanks to the cost-cutting programs, despite investments in the NZZ am Sonntag, the figures are expected to remain in the black. The first quarter had once again been "tough" in the advertising sector, but commercial printing had picked up again and the financial result was also significantly better than in the same period of the previous year, said Rickenbacher. The SGT Group is also likely to play a significant positive role again. Rickenbacher: "It is a reliable profit generator."
The NZZ Group in figures

in 1000 Fr.
2000 2001 Change on previous year in %
Group profit 50 282 128 - 99.75
Operating income 531 862 513 110 - 3.5
Operating expenses 480 495 508 537 5.8
Cash flow 90 435 41 606 - 54.0

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