Media Lifeline: Metro International

The company behind the global roll-out of a commuter freesheet has enjoyed mixed fortunes.

1995: The Swedish media conglomerate Modern Times Group sets up a new division to trial a morning freesheet newspaper that will be given out to commuters on the Stockholm Metro system. It proves a hit with readers and advertisers alike, and the company soon plots to launch editions in other cities around Europe - and beyond.

2000: Prague was the first international expansion stepping stone, when it launched in 1997. Then, in 1998, editions were rolled out in Budapest and Gothenburg; in 1999, Helsinki, the central Dutch conurbation and Malmo were added; in 2000, the roll-out reached Rome, Milan, Warsaw and Athens, and it even crossed the Atlantic, too, with editions in Philadelphia, Toronto and Santiago, Chile.

2005: As the roll-out continues under the chief executive Pelle Tornberg, and the company heads towards its target of 70 editions in more than 100 cities in more than 20 countries, Metro International gradually claws its way to profitability.

2006: Profitability across a calendar year at last, although quarter-by-quarter the picture still remains volatile. But, for the year leading up to 31 December 2006, Metro International delivers an operating profit of $16.9 million. The market-by-market picture, though, shows performance is patchy, and there is a threat of cuts or closure at several of the group's titles.

2007: Metro International hires Per Mikael Jensen, a former global Metro editor-in-chief, as its new chief executive, succeeding Tornberg, who has retired. But the new boss faces a tough start. Interim results reveal a third-quarter loss of $18.2 million.

Fast forward ...

2009: Profits continue to be hard won despite cost-cutting programmes and vigorous marketing initiatives. It has to face the fact that print ad revenues are continuing to decline across the globe, while new freesheets, both magazines and newspapers, continue to enter the market. Jensen now enters talks with the incoming News Corp chief executive, James Murdoch.

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