Ekspress Group sales recover to pre-coronavirus levels

Ekspress Group's CEO Mari-Liis Rüütsalu.
Ekspress Group's CEO Mari-Liis Rüütsalu. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Private media company AS Ekspress Grupp says its sales have returned to their pre-coronavirus crisis level, with digital revenues continuing to grow and cost cuts leading to a profit.

Mari-Liis Rüütsalu, the group's CEO, says that sales have recovered well since the nadir of the crisis, and in the third quarter of this year were at a comparable level with the same period in 2019, though sales for the entire nine months (January-September) were lower than the same period last year.

"While there was a clear drop in sales in the second quarter as customers exercised caution, in the third quarter we saw a recovery, particularly related to web advertising," Rüütsalu said.

"Profitability was positively impacted by cost cuts, a rise in digital subscription revenues and a recovery in advertising revenues. Nonetheless, we are cautious about the fourth quarter, since nationwide restrictions related to the pandemic will hamper the group's ticket sales business volumes in Latvia," she went on.

Ekspress Group operates the piletlevi ticket site, in addition to its flagship daily newspaper, Eesti Päevaleht (EPL), online news portal Delfi, investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress and agricultural weekly Maaleht. It also dominates the magazine market.

Net profit saw a rise in Q3 2020 to €1.08 million, far higher than the figure for the same period in 2019 when it stood at €0.02 million.

Over nine months the group made a €0.92 million profit to September, compared with losses over the same period last year of over quarter of a million euros.

The group's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBIDTA) was €2.23 million in Q3 2020, a €0.91 million rise on year.

EBITDA over the nine months to September totaled €4.56 million, a 27 percent growth on year.

Third-quarter EBITDA does however include €0.41 million in state aid provided during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group's digital sector revenue made up 48 percent of total turnover, and 70 percent of the media segment's turnover.

The figures for 2019 were 44 percent and 68 percent respectively.

Growth was facilitated by digital subsripctions, which reached 71,000 in the Baltic States and grew over 12 percent on quarter to Q3 2020, and 42 percent since the end of 2019. Growth was seen in all three Baltic countries.

Ekspress Meedia made up over half the private sector's digital subscription sales in Estonia alone, Rüütsalu added.

"In Estonia, were we have offered paid content the longest, out of the Bltic states, made up 53 percent of the total volume of the Estonian Association of Media Enterprises (EML). The potential for growth in Latvia and Lithuania is the same and digital order volumes have been growing rapidly," she said.

The EML represents the private media firms, both major and minor, and totals over 60 members. The other major media concern in Estonia is Postimees Group.

Ekspress Group started its operations in the climate of growing freedoms in Estonia in 1989 in the run-up to independence, and employs around 1,700 people today.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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