Digital publishing pays off for Axel Springer

Axel Springer, owner of mass-circulation paper 'Bild', has adapted to the winds of digital change

German media group Axel Springer said Thursday its digital publishing empire would bring further increases in sales and profits in 2017, after meeting its forecasts last year.

The publisher achieved a net profit of 450 million euros ($474 million) in 2016, up almost 50 percent on the previous year's figure.

Operating, or underlying, profit increased 6.5 percent to 595 million euros, on revenues around the same level as in 2015 at 3.3 billion.

Axel Springer had lowered its own forecasts in October, blaming the financial effects of a joint venture with Switzerland's Ringier to bring the two groups' publications under one roof.

"Thanks to targeted investments in digital business models and complementary acquisitions, the group has consolidated its position as Europe's leading digital publisher," Springer said in a statement.

The Berlin-based group was among the first German publishers to make big bets on digital media, offering online subscriptions to tabloid Bild and conservative broadsheet Die Welt.

It has also sold off a number of print titles and made big investments in digital-only publications such as Business insider.

Digital offerings now account for 67 percent of revenue and 72 percent of profit at the publisher, founded just after the Second World War by journalist Axel Springer and a landmark in German public life.

For the current year, Springer expects its digital products to grow further, forecasting revenues around 5.0 percent higher than 2016 and operating profits increased by up to 10 percent.