A high rate of turnover may indicate too strict credit policies or an inability to extend credit. It is the tradeoff between sales and tying up funds in receivables.
Sales to Working Capital - measures the relationship between sales and the working capital of a business. Too high a ratio may indicate an insufficient amount of working capital. Too low a ratio may indicate unproductive assets.
Sales to Total Assets - measures the ability of a business to use assets productively. This ratio may be indicating conditions of excess capacity, inefficient or obsolete equipment, or temporary changes inn demand.
Bertelsmann appears to be healthy in terms of short-term liquidity. The Acid Test Ratio is normal for companies of this size and the Current Ratio is higher than normal and indicates that the company should have no trouble meeting short-term financial commitments. The capital structure ratios also appear to indicate that the company is able to finance operations, but does not have too large exposure in terms of debt. The Return on Assets and Return on Investment are also strong, although there was a downturn in 2003. This was most likely due to higher interest expenses and a charge for amortization of goodwill.
The Gross Margin appears extremely high, but this is due to the nature of the business. Bertelsmann does not have a large cost of goods sold. Because it is partially a service business, a large part of operating expenses are personnel costs. Operating Profits to Sales and Net Income to Sales Ratios are within norms, although the increased expenses in 2003 are reflected by the 1.2% Net Income to Sales Ratio. The Sales to Cash Ratio indicates that Bertelsmann may be holding an excess amount of cash, providing little or no return. The other asset utilization ratios are within industry norms, further highlighting the large amount of cash on hand.
Other Factors in Assessment of Company's Health
Bertelsmann is a complete media company encompassing books, newspapers, magazines, music, television, movies and radio. It is well-known for its music labels, such as Arista and Columbia, and the publishing houses, Random House, Dell, Doubleday and Ballatine. Less well-known to Americans are the television and radio networks and the extensive list of newspapers and magazines in Europe, but they are a core part of the business. It also includes some holdings which seem unusual, such as Dynamic Graphic Finishing, which provides foil stamping, embossing, die-cutting, and related graphic arts services. Another holding somewhat out of the mainstream of the media business is the investment in Arvato Mobile, a European cell phone provider. Arvato Services has also purchased the majority of shares in Phone Assistance, a Moroccan Call Center Services provider with operations in Morocco, India, Poland, Ireland and Turkey.
Probably the most significant recent development within Bertelsmann has been the 2004 merger of BMG with Sony Music Entertainment. This venture includes some of the most important labels in the music business and has a stable of many of today's most prominent artists. It also includes an archive of works from such artists as Miles Davis, the Byrds, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Robert Johnson, Janis Joplin, Barry Manilow, Louis Armstrong, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson, Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould, Laura Nyro, Lou Reed and Stevie Ray Vaughan. While initial results seem to be very positive, at least in terms of revenue and awards, the long-term outlook for this merger is uncertain.
Problem Area very recent occurrence that may cloud the future of the division was reported recently by the Associated Press. On April 1, 2005, music agent James Walker filed suit against Sony BMG alleging that they tricked gospel music artists into firing their agents in order to reduce costs and maintain control over these artists. The suit could cost Sony BMG millions of dollars should there be an unfavorable court decision. Although this amount would not be material to the overall financial position of the company, it could have adverse results due to negative publicity. Gospel music is one of the fastest-growing segments of the music industry.
Key Management Initiative
During the press conference on March 17, 2005, Bertelsmann announced GAIN, which stands for growth and innovation initiative. This initiative is centered on expansion of market position through innovation around the core businesses, for example Avrato Direct Services UK, RTL TV Germany and Gruner + Jahr France. Bertelsmann will also engage in regional expansion by entering high-growth markets in Eastern Europe and Asia through RTL in Croatia, Random House in Korea and Direct Group in the Ukraine. This will be coupled with the strengthening of core businesses, by increasing profitability in Sony BMG, strengthening the market position in the Gravure printing plants through combination, and acquisition of the majority stake in Motor-Presse Stutgart. The Sales to Asset Ratio of the Gruner + Jahr group is very high, at 1.90 (corporate is.81) which could indicate that demand is very strong. Sales to Asset Ratio of Random House is close to the corporate ratio at 1.02. The parent company also has a strong cash position, so operations in this division will have solid financial backing. Whether these efforts will be successful cannot be determined at this time, but Bertelsmann has a rich history and culture upon which to build.
Apuzzo, Matt. "Lawsuit: Sony BMG Blacklisted Agent." Associated Press. 1 April 2005. 5 April 2005. http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050401/ap_on_bi_ge/gospel_music_lawsuit_1
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Bertelsmann Media Worldwide. 4 April 2005. http://www.bertelsmann.com.
Bertelsmann Media Worldwide. 2004 Annual Report. Blelefeld. 4 March 2005.