Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Apex bows out of PCM

Finally Apex has left PCM. It took 110 million euro along, according to the Dutch Financial Times. So PCM stands on it own again, after two year of having Apex as a dominant investor on the board. What has been the influence of Apex? Did PCM make any progress?

Apex walked into PCM two years ago and promised PCM to expand its basis. Up to that time, PCM had been a publisher of national and regional newspapers as well as a book publisher in the field of health care, education and general books. But Apex found the foundation Media and Democracy as a difficult shareholder at the table.

Looking back at the Apex era there has not been real expansion. Internet was rudely cut out as an independent division by Theo Bouwman, the former CEO of PCM; he compared internet with teletext or rudimentary text pages. The Sunday newspaper never came about nor did the free broad sheet. The ailing newspaper AD was given a lease of life with its merger of the regional newspapers of the Wegener company. The expansion in the RTV world was a sof, as Arrow radio was bought and is on sale again; a plan for an own television station Oasis never got off the ground. The newspapers attempted to get into web 2.0 with blogs and video. PCM bought the health care publisher BSL some two years ago and sold it again to Springer recently.

So what did Apex really bring? A new niche newspaper NRC Next. This daily newspaper aiming at young professionals has survived the first year. The question was already whether NRC Next would survive in the second year. A competitor in the shape of the free daily De Pers has shown up, giving the niche newspaper quite some competition.

Apex has had a difficult time with PCM. This is partly due to the lacklustreness of PCM. Apex has been unable to make some real progress and profit with the publisher. The final evaluation of the role of Apex was made by PCM, saying that the company had learned to manage its financial matters better. A real company policy was not present, except for a horizontal policy of newspapers and books, supported by internet, radio and television.

Where will PCM go? So far the successor of Mr Bouwman has indicated that he wants to slim down the company to a newspaper and educational publishing company. This means that having sold the health care publisher BSL, the general book companies are in the window. With this revenue of these sales new newspaper experiments can be paid and perhaps the Wolters Kluwer educational division can be bought. But the question is whether the company can use the revenues of the educational company in order to compensate the economic valleys in the newspaper area.

Now that PCM has its hands free, but is loaded with loans, it will be interesting to see whether Mr Ton aan de Stegge will be able to move forward with the support of the major shareholder. Will the two way policy of newspapers and educational publishing work? Or will PCM have to follow the example of Rupert Murdoch and pick up a service like MySpace and expand in RTV?

Blog Posting Number: 649

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