The Slovenia Times

Mladinska Knjiga Sold to Low-Cost Publisher Učila


Announcing that the result of what was the third attempt to sell a majority stake in the publisher, Abanka Vipa official Uroš Vejnovič said the transaction was expected to be carried out in May.

Venjovič would not disclose the sum that Učila International paid for the stake, citing business secret, while Učila International director and owner Srečko Mrvar said the price was "quite right".

Mervar said it was premature to say what the auction meant for the future of Slovenia's publishing, but pledged to continue Mladinska knjiga's work.

The banks, which seized the shares as collateral after Zvon Dva, a holding in indirect ownership of the Maribor Archdiocese, went into receivership in 2012, have been trying to sell the stake for over a year.

Mladinska knjiga generated a group net loss of EUR 2m on sales of EUR 95m in 2012, the latest year for which data are publicly available. The sales were down 14% on 2011 when the loss topped EUR 5m.

The Ljubljana-based publisher generates about a fifth of sales on foreign markets. The publishing arm accounts for about a third of revenue, the rest is attributed to the subsidiary which operates book stores.

The group employs close to 1,000 staff in Slovenia and a further 200 in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia.

Since its inception in 1945, Mladinska knjiga has published 100 million books, ranging from fiction to encyclopaedias and original books by Slovenian authors for children, youth and adults.

Together with subsidiary Cankarjeva založba it releases 500 new titles and more than 100 reprints a year. It also publishes textbooks as well as magazines for children, youth and adults, including Reader's Digest.

Last year the publisher also launched an e-book store offering 216 titles. The publisher also operates 48 bookshops and eight wholesale centres in Slovenia.

Učila International, which is 100% owned by its founder and CEO Srečko Mervar, posted sales of EUR 6.4m in 2012, up almost a fifth over the year before, and had a net profit of almost EUR 300,000.

The Tržič-based publisher was established in 1993, and is known for paper-book editions, biographies of Slovenian celebrities, global bestsellers and children's books. It also operates the Felix chain of bookshops.

Last year, a group of writers, independent publishers, Mladinska knjiga staff and other stakeholders launched an initiative to buy Mladinska knjiga to prevent the sale to what they termed an inappropriate owner.

They argued that Učila as a much smaller publisher could prove to be a phoney buyer acting on someone else'as behalf. They also argued that prospective buyers were only after the real estate owned by the publisher.

The most recent appeal against the sale was made by the Slovenian Writers' Association yesterday, suggesting the state should intervene to prevent the sale.


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