Bertelsmann recorded a solid business performance in 2008, according to chairman and CEO Hartmut Ostrowski, who announced the results in Berlin.

At the press conference today (March 24), Ostrowski said that as the German media company expects the global economic crisis to affect revenues this year, members of the management board would be waiving their bonuses in 2009, adding that this was equivalent to 50% of their annual income.

"For 2009, Bertelsmann expects that the global economic crisis will put a strain on the economy and on the company's business prospects," he said. "Overall, Bertelsmann expects revenues and operating profit to decline. The degree of year-on-year change will depend on the intensity and duration of the economic downturn."

However, he stated that generally speaking Bertelsmann was satisfied with its business performance in 2008 and was operating very profitably.

"At 9.7%, our operating return on sales [operating margin] was good - in fact, in retrospect one of our best ever," he said in a statement. However, the operating margin was down from last year's figure of 10.6%.

Bertelsmann describes itself as the world's No. 4 media group and its businesses include TV company the RTL Group and book publisher Random House. In 2008, Bertelsmann sold its 50% stake in the music joint venture Sony BMG. At the same time, it launched the new music rights arm BMG Rights Management.

Revenues from continuing operations in 2008, down just 0.5% at €16.1 billion ($21.8 billion), were stable. Adjusted for portfolio and currency exchange effects, revenues increased by 1.3%.

Earnings before interest, taxes and special items (operating EBIT) came to €1.57 billion ($2.12 billion), down 8.7% from €1.72 billion ($2.33 billion) in 2007. "It reflects the economic downturn during the second half of the year", said Ostrowski.

Group net income amounted to €270 million ($365.4 million), down 33.3% from the previous year's figure of €405 million ($548.1 million).

"The main cause for this, apart from restructuring measures taken towards the end of the business year as a precaution for 2009, were write-downs of the British TV business and at Direct Group,” said CFO Dr. Thomas Rabe.