Music

Believe Revenue Rose 16% in 2023 on Streaming Growth & Expansion in Developing Markets

Believe benefitted from geographical expansion and strong streaming growth to post revenue of 880.3 million euros ($952.8 million at the average exchange rate) in 2023, up 15.7% from the prior year, the company announced Wednesday (Mar. 13). Organic growth was 14.4%, matching the guidance the company provided in October of organic growth exceeding 14%. After adjusting for foreign currency headwinds, Believe’s adjusted organic growth rate was 19.5% in 2023 and 21.8% in the fourth quarter. 

The current growth rate should extend into the current year. Believe expects to achieve organic revenue growth in excess of 20% in 2024, adjusted to 18% to account for expected foreign currency headwinds. That high growth rate stems from a healthy paid streaming market and the belief that the ad-supported streaming market will rebound in the second half of the year. Believe also expects to make market share gains, especially in countries where it is not yet a top three company for local artists. 

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In 2023, Believe was helped by price increases at music streaming services in 2023 — Amazon Music in January, Spotify in July and Deezer in November. The company had market share gains in all key countries and with all key digital service providers, Xaiver Dumont, chief financial and operating officer, said during Wednesday’s earnings call.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EDITDA) of 50.3 million euros ($54.4 million) was up 45%. Adjusted EBITDA margin rose to 5.7%, surpassing guidance of at least 5.5%. Free cash flow was -3.1 million euros (-$3.4 million), although free cash flow turned positive in the second half of the year.

The earnings release arrived as Believe is the subject of a bid to be taken private by a consortium led by CEO Denis Ladegaillerie and investment firms EQT X and TCV. Warner Music Group (WMG) revealed last week that it's interested in pursuing Believe and willing to beat the consortium’s offer. Believe’s executives did not address questions about the take-private bid during Wednesday’s earnings call, however. 

The publicly traded French music company’s business model is built around helping to develop artists and using digital marketing and distribution to impact local charts. That approach is increasingly relevant when any artist can go viral on social media. Case in point: Believe landed a hit in 2023 when a 2022 single, “Si No Estás’” by Iñigo Quintero, become a TikTok hit in Spain before topping charts in France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Belgium. “These success at the top are being achieved in a wider variety of genres of music” including hip-hop, pop and metal, Ladegaillerie said during the earnings call.

Believe also landed 42 albums in the top 200 in its home country and 48 singles in the Top 100 in its second-largest market, Germany. In the United Kingdom, consumption was up 394%. In China, Believe expanded to 80 staffers in five offices that serve 300 record labels. In India, where Believe acquired White Hill Music’s catalog in December, the company had 66 songs on local charts. 

Revenue in France, where Believe is in the top three recorded music companies for local artists, rose 14.9% to 147.8 million euros ($160 million). Revenue in Germany dropped 2.4% to 110.9 million euros ($120 million), while revenue in Europe, excluding France and Germany, rose 25.9% to 264.6 million euros ($286.2 million). The Americas accounted for 128.1 million euros ($138.7 million), up 17.4% on strength in Brazil and Mexico. Asia-Pacific and Africa contributed 228.9 million euros ($247.8 million), up 14.9%, with China and Japan being particularly strong. India and Southeast Asia grew at slower paces due to those regions being affected by weakness in the ad-supported streaming market. 

Revenue for the company's premium solutions division rose 15.8% to 825.1 million euros ($893.1 million), while the division’s adjusted EBITDA improved 16.8% to 118.3 million euros ($128 million). Premium solutions mainly consists of the sale, promotion, marketing and delivery of digital content for artists and labels. It also includes some physical sales, synchronization services, neighboring rights and music publishing. 

In the automated solutions division, revenue increased 14.6% to 55.2 million euros ($59.7 million), and adjusted EBITDA rose 53% to 10.1 million euros ($10.9 million). The slower growth rate was expected, said Dumont, because of lower ad-supported monetization and a new TuneCore pricing structure launched in 2022 that led to lower average revenue per client and was “not yet compensated by the ramp-up in new clients.”

Ladegaillerie has formed a consortium with two of its shareholders, investment firms EQT X and TCV, to take the company private at 15 euros ($16.43) per share. That offer ran into competition last week when WMG revealed its interest in Believe and said it might be willing to pay at least 17 euros ($18.62) per share. The consortium has attempted to speed the process and waive the board’s condition that an independent expert provide a report to Believe’s ad-hoc committee on the offer’s fairness from a financial viewpoint. The parties are now waiting for French financial regulators to say if the consortium can unilaterally waive the independent expert’s report and whether WMG’s preliminary proposal prevents the waiver of the board’s condition.

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