RTL Group Scraps Dividend Payments as Coronavirus Impacts Revenues

RTL Group Scraps Dividend Payments as Coronavirus Impacts Revenues
Courtesy of RTL

RTL Group has become the latest media giant to scrap dividend payments in a bid to preserve liquidity amid financial disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement Thursday, the European broadcasting giant noted that global economic development and prospects have “significantly deteriorated” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic since it provided guidance in mid-March to shareholders on its prospects for the year.

RTS said it is currently not in a position to provide a new outlook for the full 2020 financial year.

“While Q1/2020 will be broadly in line with expectations, cancellations of advertising bookings and postponements of productions will negatively impact the Group’s results in the coming months,” said RTL in its statement.

The company said that the unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus crisis means that “preservation of liquidity becomes an essential precaution to safeguard the Group’s present operations and future prospects.”

As a result, RTL’s board of directors has decided to withdraw its proposal of a €4.00 ($4.3) per share dividend for the 2019 financial year.

Last month, the U.K. media group ITV also shelved its dividend and guidance for 2020 after seeing a  sharp deterioration in advertising levels due to social distancing measures put in place because of coronavirus.

RTL said its TV channels, radio stations, streaming services and websites are currently experiencing “significantly higher reach and usage” as millions of people stay at home during coronavirus lockdowns.

RTL Group’s TV portfolio includes RTL Television in Germany, M6 in France, the RTL channels in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Hungary, and Antena 3 in Spain. RTL Group is also the parent company of production and distribution giant Fremantle.

RTL Group said in its statement that it has low levels of debt and significant, unused and committed Bertelsmann credit facilities with no maturities before 2023.

The group added that it maintains its mid-term targets for the streaming services TV Now in Germany and Videoland in the Netherlands to grow its total number of paying subscribers to between five and seven million, and to grow streaming revenue to at least €500 million and to break even by 2025.