German-Speaking Agencies Consolidate, Brace

Posted on 1/20/2009 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Last week’s mergers among German-speaking image agencies mirror a wave of similar U.S. activity, with two larger companies absorbing competitors.

Swiss agency ImagePoint has taken over the operations of the Karlsruhe, Germany-based One to X. ImagePoint, a private company managed by industry veteran and co-owner Felix Brunner, was already doing business in German-speaking countries and wanted to strengthen its presence. Existing One to X clients are now serviced through ImagePoint’s Zurich office, and the two image collections are currently being integrated.

In nearby Vienna, Austria Press Agency subsidiary APA PictureDesk has finalized its acquisition of Contrast Photo Productions. APA PictureDesk has also restructured its operations and management. Klemens Ganner, who has spent over a decade with various APA companies, has taken the post of APA PictureDesk chief executive officer. Contrast’s Michael Vogel stays on as chief operating officer and the managing director of APA Investment Management.

Financial arrangements or specific background of either deal have not been disclosed. While the timing of the two mergers can be coincidental, it is far more likely that the local image market is bracing for the effects of intensifying stock-industry pressure and worsening global economy.

The recent cancellation of PICTA, the industry event organized by German image-agency association BVPA, suggests that many agencies are already feeling the pressure. BVPA said that 2009 PICTA generated only half of the expected exhibitors, forcing the organization to rethink the format.

German-speaking countries are often referred to as the third-largest image market, following the U.S. and the U.K. According to BVPA, Germany alone was responsible for some $260 million in stock-image revenues in 2005. While the proliferation of microstock since then has likely affected the distribution of such revenues among agencies, there is no doubt that there has been substantial market growth prior to the 2008 economic slowdown.

What is likely to happen next is a battle for market share. It is not surprising that APA PictureDesk retained Vogel as COO; however, his concurrent responsibility for managing the company’s future investments is indicative of APA’s near-term plans.

Still, even large and established players have the potential of being dwarfed by foreign companies—particularly those with budget offerings. For example, Germany is a key market for Getty Images-owned iStockphoto, which will invest in a local office in 2009.

Copyright © 2009 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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