PubliGroupe shares soar on Publicitas sale

Wed Apr 2, 2014 4:17am EDT

* Sells Publicitas to Germany's Aurelius

* 80 percent of sales to now come from digital businesses

* Shares jump 28 percent

ZURICH, April 2 (Reuters) - Shares in PubliGroupe shot up almost 30 percent on Wednesday after the Swiss marketing company sold its loss-making media sales businesss Publicitas to Germany's Aurelius and said it will focus on growing its digital offerings.

Aurelius has agreed to pay a low double-digit million Swiss franc sum for Publicitas and will take on its 860 staff as well as all contractual obligations with media providers, advertisers and agencies, PubliGroupe said in a statement on Wednesday.

The disposal marks PubliGroupe's exit from its historic media sales business with over 80 percent of sales now coming from its digital products and services, which include online directory local.ch and marketing network Zanox.

By 0815 GMT shares in PubliGroupe were trading up 25 percent at 131.7 francs, making them the biggest gainer among Swiss stocks. Earlier they hit a one-year high.

"Media Sales generated losses in recent years and increasingly appeared to be a millstone around PubliGroupe's neck," ZKB analyst Daniel Buerki said in a note.

For 2014, PubliGroupe is expecting to post consolidated net sales of around 150 million Swiss francs ($170 million) and operating profit in the range of 20 million. Last year it eked out an operating profit of 0.8 million francs.

PubliGroupe said it will book a one-off charge of 30-40 million francs for the disposal. The transaction, which is subject to approval by shareholders and competition authorities, is expected to close in the second quarter. ($1 = 0.8834 Swiss Francs) (Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Noah Barkin)