UPDATE 2-Norwegian media firm Schibsted expands in Spain, Morocco

Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:18am EST

Related Topics

* EBITDA NOK 406 mln vs NOK 462 mln forecast

* Shares up 75 pct in 12 months

* Macro weakness to weigh on Norway business

* Goes deeper into Spanish online market (Adds company, analysts comment, shares)

By Ole Petter Skonnord

OSLO, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Norwegian media company Schibsted pressed ahead with a rapid international expansion, buying another Spanish classified site on Thursday and merging its Moroccan business with a rival, sending its shares up 5 percent.

Schibsted said it bought Milanuncios.com, Spain's biggest classified site, for 50 million euros and combined its Moroccan unit with Avito.ma to create that country's top classified advertising site.

"This reinforces our position as a clear leader in the Spanish online classifieds market," the company said.

Schibsted has outperformed many media industry rivals in recent years as it successfully converted much of its content from print to digital and expanded rapidly in online classifieds in countries such as Sweden, Brazil and Spain.

Analysts said the moves in Spain and Morocco offset any negative sentiment about expected weakness in Norway and France.

At 1114 GMT, Schibsted traded 5.4 percent higher, outperforming a 0.6 percent fall in the broader Norwegian market . The stock is up 75 percent over the past 12 months, well ahead of the market's 15 percent rise.

Analysts said the stock now had little room to run.

"Following underperformance at the year's beginning, Schibsted shares are now trading on over 15 times expected 2015 enterprise value to EBITDA, in line with peers," UBS said. "The cautious tone on Norway and extra investment are unhelpful."

Schibsted warned a weaker macroeconomic climate in Norway could affect advertising revenue, while its French site's outlook was also sluggish.

"Our leading French site Le-boncoin.fr holds significant long-term potential in new verticals and products, although growth may slow down in the short term due to prudent monetization strategies and tougher year-on-year comparisons," it added.

Schibsted said its fourth-quarter earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell to 406 million crowns ($66.39 million) from 497 million in the year-ago period, below a mean analyst forecast of 462 million. ($1 = 6.1157 Norwegian kroner) (Additional reporting by Balazs Koranyi and Camilla Knudsen; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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