BtoB

Public b-to-b media companies show growth

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It's taken nearly four years, but the b-to-b media industry is displaying signs of strength. The positive results reported by public companies with b-to-b units for the full year 2004 are a clear sign of the market's vigor.

Most public companies in the business media sector showed top-line growth last year. They also tended to post improved EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) results-and for the first time in several years, the pure b-to-b segments of these businesses made positive contributions.

Primedia's 2004 earnings report was typical of public companies with a b-to-b media unit. The company's revenue increased 1.9% to nearly $1.31 billion, from $1.28 billion in 2003. Its EBITDA increased 3.3% to $260.0 million, from $251.6 million.

A drag on results for most of the past four years, Primedia's business information unit was a positive contributor in 2004. Its revenue for the full year reached $224.8 million, up 1.6% from $221.4 million. The unit also increased EBITDA 6.6% for the year.

Ziff Davis Holdings, parent company of Ziff Davis Media, reported improved earnings bolstered by renewed strength in its enterprise unit. Overall, Ziff Davis generated $204.5 million in revenue in 2004, a 5% gain over the $194.1 million it produced in 2003. The company's EBITDA also improved slightly in 2004, to $34.9 million from $34.5 million. Ziff Davis, however, posted an $85.2 million net loss in 2004 due in large part to $91.8 million in interest payments for the year.

Among the other companies that released 2004 results in recent weeks:

n Advanstar Communications reported revenue from continuing operations increased 23.2% to $378.1 million, from $306.8 million in 2003. EBITDA from continuing operations increased 16.0% to $91.5 million. Advanstar's net loss for 2004 was $51.2 million, compared with a net loss of $49.4 million in 2003.

n Bolstered mainly by its online business, CNET Networks posted revenue of $291.2 million for 2004, an 18% increase over $246.2 million in 2003. Additionally, the company reported net income of $11.7 million for the year compared with a net loss of $26.3 million in 2003.

n Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, reported its revenue increased 7.7% to $1.67 billion, from $1.55 billion in 2003. Net income, excluding special items, increased 27.4% to $99.9 million, from $78.4 million in 2003. Revenues from the company's electronic publishing unit helped offset continued softness at the Journal, which posted a full year decline in ad linage of 0.5%.

n Jupitermedia Corp. posted 2004 revenue of $71.9 million, an increase of 53% compared with $47.0 million in 2003. The company reported net income of $15.7 million, compared with $1.4 million in 2003.

n McGraw-Hill Cos. reported its revenue for the year increased to $5.3 billion, a 7.4% gain over 2003. The company generated net income of $755.8 million, a 9.9% increase over 2003. Revenue for the company's b-to-b group, which includes BusinessWeek, increased 2.4% to $685.7 million compared with 2003.

n Reed Elsevier posted a slight decline in revenue, dipping to $9.35 billion from $9.43 billion in 2003. The decline was due in part to the weakness of the U.S. dollar, and Reed Elsevier said its revenue climbed 5% in "constant currencies." The company's reported its profit before taxation increased to $1.09 billion, up from $992.6 million in 2003.

n United Business Media, parent company of CMP Media, posted revenue of $1.55 billion (excluding joint ventures and associates), up 8.4% over 2003. The company reported a $212.6 million profit for 2004, which was helped by a $231.1 million reduction in tax liabilities.

n VNU, the parent company of Nielsen Media Research and VNU Business Media, reported its revenue declined to $5.03 billion in 2004 from $5.16 billion in 2003. In constant currencies, however, revenue increased by 2%, according to the company. VNU's net earnings increased to $216.8 million in 2004 from $172.9 million in 2003, a 25% gain. M

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