Here's How One Norwegian CEO Plans to Dodge Facebook's Dominance

  • Company sees several M&A opportunities in Europe, CEO Says
  • CEO hopes to complete Hemnet purchase in a couple of months

Schibsted ASA is going on the offensive to build its defenses against the global behemoths of the Internet.

The 176-year-old Norwegian media company, which runs online classified websites in about 29 countries worldwide, is working on developing more personalized products for both consumers and advertisers, Chief Executive Officer Rolv Erik Ryssdal said. As part of that plan, the company has set up a new development hub in London with 45 employees.

“It will be decisive to develop good products for advertisers with more targeted audiences,” Ryssdal said in an interview at his Oslo office on Monday. “For that, you need technology and data. We don’t want to be a supplier to Facebook.”

The company has built up its war chest to target more assets in the online classifieds sphere across Europe, where it already runs sites from Finland to Portugal. It raised 2.7 billion kroner ($330 million) in a private placement earlier this month.

Schibsted’s A shares slid 2 percent to 273.5 kroner as of 4:35 p.m. in Oslo. The shares are up 15 percent this year, beating the 1.4 percent decline in the benchmark OBX index.

“There will be several consolidation opportunities in classifieds, especially in Europe,” Ryssdal said. “Our primary focus is to develop our positions in the countries where we are. It could be both organic growth or bolt-on acquisitions related to what we have.”

The global media industry is reshaping as technology companies, such as Facebook, Apple and Google, are changing how consumers buy and use media. Schibsted, which owns some of the biggest newspapers in Sweden and Norway, is building its own digital presence to increase traffic and revenue.

“We have a solid balance sheet,” he said. “So we have the ability to do something.”

Schibsted bid 1.5 billion kronor for the Swedish real estate site Hemnet in May. Two of the four owners have accepted the offer. There are “ongoing negotiations” with Maeklarsamfundet and Fastighetsmaeklarfoerbundet FMF, which own 50 percent of Hemnet, according to Ryssdal.

“We have a positive dialogue with the two real estate agent organizations,” he said. “We think that this deal will be completed within a couple of months.”

With acquisitions such as Hemnet, Schibsted can build its “own strong ecosystems,” especially in Norway and Sweden, Ryssdal said.

“We have so much traffic there, so many sites, so much interesting data that we can be an exciting alternative to these big giants,” he said. “And we can do more with the classifieds sites we have, especially in France, Spain and Italy.”

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