TALLINN - The Ekspress Group, Estonia's largest publishing company, announced this week that it would go public on March 26 with an open share subscription on the Tallinn Stock Exchange and that the company's future expansion plans included Latvia and Romania. Hans Luik, owner of the group, said on March 19 that "Ekspress Group is moving on to the Baltic market, where the goal is to achieve a similar position as in Estonia."
The Ekspress Group, which was created in 1989, includes brand name publications such as Eesti Paevaleht, Eesti Ekspress and SL Ohtuleht. The group claims that some 60 percent of Estonia's population reads its publications.
The company said in a statement that 5.3 million shares would be offered to the public, of which slightly more than half will be sold by Luik and the remainder will consist of new stock. The offer will last four days and end on March 29.
The debut of a media company on the Tallinn Stock Exchange will give added vitality to stock trading in Estonia, which is by far the most active among the three Baltic states. Blue-chip stocks on the exchange now include a shipper, a municipal water company and a casino group, all of which are relative newcomers to the market.
The IPO also comes during a peak in Ekspress Group's financial performance, as last year's earnings amounted to 94.1 million kroons (6 million euros), up 130 percent year-on-year. Revenues in 2006 increased 25 percent to nearly 930 million kroons on the wave of a booming advertisement market.
Previously the company reported that its line of magazines in Lithuania began showing a profit last year. Ekspress Leidyba features 17 publications, including the monthly Panele, the most widely read women's magazine in Lithuania.
The company hopes to raise 12.8 million euros from the IPO (after expenses), which will be led by Suprema Securities.
Executives told reporters that part of the proceeds would be used to expand to the Latvian market, where the company is in negotiations with local media outlets.
They said that Ekspress Group, which employs some 2,000 people, wanted to take over a Latvian company via a share swap.
Luik said that the group also had plans to make a foray into the Romanian media market and that talks were being held with internationally renowned companies on the venture.
A poll earlier this year by TNS Emor showed that SL Ohtuleht, a tabloid, was the most popular publication in Estonia. The paper had an average readership of 251,000 in the fourth quarter of last year.
Eesti Ekspress, a weekly, was in fourth place and had a readership of 142,000 in the last three months of 2006.