An extraordinary year in many ways
DPG Media achieved 8% growth in turnover, taking it to €1,766 million in 2020. On the one hand, this growth was strongly influenced by the consolidation of the acquired Dutch Sanoma activities. They contributed an additional €215 million in turnover from the moment they were included in the consolidation in the second quarter. On the other hand, Covid-19 put pressure on sales, particularly around advertising. Even after including Sanoma activities, turnover from advertising fell by 5% to €471 million, with a 13% organic decline.
Reader turnover, on the other hand, did particularly well, growing to €820 million, including the Sanoma divisions. Organic growth was also good, thanks to the rapidly growing number of digital subscriptions. And despite Covid-19’s impact on the recruitment business, online services also showed 10% growth to €130 million.
Costs were also well under control in 2020. Continued digitisation, lower paper prices, and steps taken in response to the Covid-19 crisis led to a significant drop in costs, especially purchasing costs, which barely rose, even after Sanoma was added.
Finally, EBITDA grew by 31% to €339 million, more than 19% on turnover. Two thirds of the extra EBITDA is attributable to the addition of the Sanoma activities, but EBITDA also showed very strong organic growth.
EBITA also rose by 38% to €254 million. The addition of Sanoma increased the contribution to EBITA to €172 m, Belgian operating profit also grew nicely to €75 million, and Denmark, where EBITA tripled in 2019, now felt the impact of Covid-19 with a decreased contribution to EBITA of €7 million.
After paying slightly increased financial expenses and €61 million in taxes, net profit before amortisation of goodwill grew by 39% to €178 million.
77% of EBITDA was also converted into operational free cash flow. As a result, the group was able to very quickly reduce the debts incurred for the Sanoma acquisition. Although this acquisition, with an enterprise value of €460 million, was not finalised until April, nine months later, the net financial debt had only increased by €210 million to €592 million. The leverage ratio hardly increased, either, closing at 1.66 times EBITDA.
The group prepares its financial statements in accordance with Belgian GAAP, which includes annual amortisation of acquisition goodwill. In 2020, these amortisations amounted to €109 million, whereas the amount shown on the balance sheet for acquisition goodwill was €969 million. The group has resumed its dividend policy. A dividend of €40 million will be distributed for 2020, which has already been charged to equity in accordance with Belgian GAAP.
On 13 December, the Group reached an agreement with Proximus for the sale of Mobile Vikings for an enterprise value of €130 million. This transaction will be submitted to the Belgian competition authorities and will result in a book profit at closing, which will be reserved. The proceeds will enable even quicker reduction of the net financial debt.