Finland's largest bookchain on verge of sale

Finland's largest bookchain on verge of sale

The largest bookshop chain in Finland is on the verge of being sold to the country's second-largest publisher, in a deal worth €27.5m (£24.3m).

The deal will see Otava become the sole owner of Suomalainen Kirjakauppa, so long as it is granted approval by the local competition authorities.

Suomalainen Kirjakauppa’s current owner is Sanoma, an international media group involved in educational book publishing in Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as magazine publishing both in Finland and abroad and stakes in television channels across Europe. The sale is part of Sanoma’s strategy to focus on their key areas and invest in digital products.

In addition to the chain’s 59 shops under the Suomalainen banner, there are two shops specifically catering for university students, another one for upper secondary school students and three outlets selling paperbacks only, as well as their online shop suomalainen.com. The chain will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.

However, not part of the deal are the outlets Suomalainen has in Estonia. Ms Hellevi Kekäläinen, director of Sanoma Trade, says “it’s business as usual” and insists there are no immediate plans to dispose of them.

Suomalainen Kirjakauppa will trade as an independent business within the Otava corporation which also comprises magazine publishing and new media activities. Otava’s turnover last year was €223.3m (£197.5m) while sales at Suomalainen topped €109m (£96.4m).

According to Otava’s c.e.o. Alexander Lindholm, once it was clear that Sanoma wanted to offload Suomalainen, he became interested. He said: “In a market such as Finland, a sparsely populated but vast country, a chain like this is essential to guarantee that all people have access to a bookshop, irrespective of where they live.”

The booksellers, too, see the acquisition as the best way forward. “We are delighted that Finnish publishers have faith in bookselling and are investing in it”, Katriina Jaakkola, chief executive of the Finnish Booksellers’ Association, said.

Despite the economic slowdown, bookselling has not been badly affected in Finland. The most recent media survey shows that 77% of Finns buy at least one book each year while around 16% buy more than 10.