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Axel Springer continues to reap rewards from going digital

Update : 10 May 2017, 06:49 PM

German media group Axel Springer said Wednesday its digital publishing investments were continuing to pay off, driving up revenue and profits in the first quarter and putting it on target to meet its forecasts for the full year.

Axel Springer said in a statement that it booked adjusted net profit of €78.1m between January and March, almost 20% more than in the same period last year.

Operating, or underlying profit stood at €147.2m, up 16.9%, on the back of a 6.7% increase in revenues to €836.2m.

"Significant investments in growth areas in recent years contributed to the good start in 2017," said chief executive Mathias Doepfner, pointing to the group's specialist classified advertising sites and online news media such as Business Insider, acquired in 2015.

Digital publishing made up 72% of Springer's revenue and 80% of its operating profit in the first three months, the group said.

Founded just after World War II by journalist Axel Springer, the Berlin-based group is best known as the publisher of conservative broadsheet Die Welt and raucous, tabloid-style Bild, Germany's biggest-selling newspaper.

But it was one of the first German publishing houses to go all-in on digital media, selling off some print titles, offering online subscriptions to its existing outlets and buying up web-only publications.

"Axel Springer is further driving migration towards digital business models with above average margins. We expect further solid organic and external growth," commented analyst Harald Heider of DZ Bank.

Looking ahead to the full year, Springer confirmed its forecast of a revenue increase "in the mid single-digit percentage range", while operating profit and adjusted earnings per share are set to rise in the "mid-to-high single-digit percentage range".

Shares in the publisher were trading at €53.83 around 1220GMT in Frankfurt Wednesday, up 0.1% on the day, while the DAX index of leading German shares was down very slightly.

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