Earnings: Metro International Loses $7 Million Through Online Investment In 2008

The world’s biggest free newspaper publisher Metro International, based in Luxembourg, made a $7 million loss on its online operations in the year to December 31 after continued web investment – about $2 million more than its online losses the year before.

The company claims it grew its print readership by 10 percent in Q408, increased its newspaper audience share in 13 countries in 2008 and continues to launch titles in countries such as Mexico and Russia — yet so far it has suffered nothing but losses from online. But CFO Anders Kronborg said in the investors’ call today that it’s not a loss, it’s a long-term digital investment: “You will notice that we have decided to start writing off our online investment, which will have an impact on each quarter of the next two years.” What exactly the online investment entailed wasn’t mentioned.

We heard in October, at the release of Metro’s Q308 results, that it was engaged in a “strategic review” of its seven websites to see if they could make money; the company now says it is working on “creative digital products” in Sweden, France and Spain — and Kronborg says the online investment is designed to have a positive impact on the balance sheet eventually. More details on PCUK.