FRANKFURT Jan 10 Roman Catholic Church-owned
bookseller Weltbild, which competes with online retailer
Amazon.com in Germany, filed for insolvency on Friday
after its sales shrank and it unexpectedly found itself unable
to obtain fresh financing.
Unlisted Weltbild, which has 6,800 employees, has been
posting losses as it invests in a shift to more internet-based
The company, which relies on catalogue sales and is part
owner of Germany's second biggest brick-and-mortar bookstore
chain, has struggled to keep up with Amazon and its sales fell
in the second half of 2013.
"The lower level of sales expected for the next three years
as well doubles the amount of financing needed until the company
is restructured," it said in a statement.
It said its business was to continue while the
court-appointed insolvency administrator works out a plan to
restructure the business.
Weltbild's insolvency filing, made with a court in the
southern German city of Augsburg, does not affect the
bookstores, Weltbild's businesses in Austria and Switzerland or
its website buecher.de.
As recently as September, Weltbild denied that its financial
future was uncertain, saying its management did not see the
company's survival as being at risk.
But earlier on Friday, Handelsblatt Online said that the
Roman Catholic groups that own the publisher had failed to agree
on fresh financing.
The owners of Weltbild - 12 Catholic dioceses, the
Association of German Dioceses and the church's soldiers'
welfare organisation - have fought for years over their strategy
for the company.
Two years ago, they even decided to prepare a sale of the
for-profit business after accusations that Weltbild was making
profits from selling erotic books, but no deal materialised.
Weltbild in 2012 generated sales of almost 1.6 billion euros
($2.1 billion) with mail-order sales of books and household
items and from its part-owned bookstore chain Hugendubel.
Hugendubel is in turn part of Germany's No. 2 bookstore
group after Thalia, which is owned by beauty-to-books retailer
Amazon's online book sales alone in Germany bring in about
the same amount as Weltbild's entire revenue, giving it a share
of almost 75 percent of Germany's online book retailing market.