LUXEMBOURG (dpa-AFX) - Media group RTL Group is hoping for an improvement after a difficult year. "Based on the current booking situation, we currently expect RTL Germany to increase its advertising revenues by seven percent in the first quarter," said CEO Thomas Rabe in a conference call with journalists on Thursday. In 2024, however, operating profit should only increase slightly in the best-case scenario. On the stock market, the new targets led to a price slide: around midday, RTL shares fell by almost 6.8 percent to a low since 2020, extending their losses over the past twelve months to more than 30 percent.

As the Bertelsmann subsidiary announced in Luxembourg on Thursday, Group revenues, excluding the broadcasting business in the Netherlands, are expected to rise to around 6.6 billion euros in 2024. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITA) are expected to be between 700 and 800 million euros - RTL is therefore also preparing for a possible further decline in earnings. The Group justified this with higher programming costs, primarily due to the broadcast of Euro 2024. Goldman Sachs analyst Lisa Yang commented that the annual forecast was below average estimates.

Rabe also expressed his openness to further investments in the sports sector. "We are looking at everything that comes onto the market in terms of sports rights - including the Bundesliga rights, of course," he said. However, RTL has not yet decided whether and how the television group wants to proceed. "Sports rights play a major role for us," he said. "This applies to both RTL, i.e. linear TV, and RTL+." He did not answer the question as to what form of reporting he was interested in. RTL currently has no rights for the Bundesliga.

For 2023, the Group reported revenues of a good 6.2 billion euros and an operating profit of 782 million euros, after the advertising slump in Europe had significantly slowed down business. This resulted in a 5.4 percent drop in revenue and a 15 percent drop in operating profit.

At the bottom line, the MDax group earned 483 million euros, almost a quarter less than in the previous year. RTL intends to pay its shareholders a dividend of 2.75 euros for 2023 after 4.00 euros in the previous year.

RTL announced the sale of its channels in the Netherlands to DPG Media in mid-December, with the deal to be completed by mid-2024. RTL is aiming to raise 1.1 billion euros. Originally, the Group wanted to merge its TV business there with Talpa Network, which met with resistance from the competition authorities. RTL Group will continue to be present in the Netherlands with other businesses, such as its production subsidiary Fremantle. This may not reach its total sales target of three billion euros until 2026 - until now, the managers wanted to achieve this one year earlier, but this is not completely out of the question.

Group CEO Thomas Rabe also made changes to the strategic medium-term targets. Because the more advanced streaming service Videoland from the Netherlands will be missing in future, the manager expects only nine million paying subscribers by 2026 instead of ten million. At 750 million euros, streaming revenue is then likely to be a quarter lower than previously targeted. Annual program investments in this area are also to be reduced from 600 to 500 million euros. The streaming segment includes the services RTL+ in Germany and Hungary as well as M6+ (formerly 6play) in France./ngu/mis/stk