Schibsted Seeks Classified-Ad Companies for Online Growth

Schibsted ASA, Norway’s biggest media company, is considering acquisitions to accelerate growth of its online classified-advertising businesses as the European economic crisis will “certainly” affect the media business.

“We are looking at acquisition targets in the classified sector in the markets where we are already in,” Chief Executive Officer Rolv Erik Ryssdal said today in an interview at a conference organized by Morgan Stanley in Barcelona. “We don’t have a specific budget. It’s important to be pragmatic and to have the financial flexibility to participate in the deals that we find interesting, and I believe that we have that.”

Schibsted owns, one of France’s 10 most-visited websites, and is seeking to expand its online business as newspaper circulation declines amid a trend toward Web-based alternatives. Schibsted’s online operations, which include classifieds and other media, contributed 42 percent of revenue in the third quarter, up from 36 percent a year earlier, the Oslo-based company said last week.

Schibsted predicts “challenging times that will certainly affect” the media business, Ryssdal said. The company is working on a “big” cost-cutting plan to be implemented during the next two years to save 500 million kroner ($86.5 million) across Norway, Sweden and Spain, Ryssdal said.

The company also owns Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper, and Aftonbladet, Sweden’s biggest.

“We are comfortable with the businesses that we have on the print side so we don’t plan to buy or sell any of those assets,” Ryssdal said. “We have exciting growth prospects.”

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