panorama  › Football 24

Company who tells all about football players says precious little about itself

by Gianni Dragoni

There is a football-related activity that produces spectacular profits, it is the production of collectible cards. Panini Spa, the company based in Modena, Emilia-Romagna, is famous worldwide for its soccer player albums. The company does not make its financial statements public. Nevertheless, researching the official data filed in the company register provides insight into how business is doing.

The most recent financial statements available reflect 2014. It was a very good year for the company led by CEO Aldo Hugo Sallustro, an extraordinary year thanks to the World Cup in Brazil. The distribution of cards reached 125 countries, which - explains the directors' report - represents 54.35% of the world's countries (230), accounting for 58.97% of the world population: that is to say, according to Panini, that its cards have reached over 4.2 billion potential consumers, out of a global population of 7.2 billion. Among the company's activities there are also other collections and publishing initiatives, but the soccer player cards represent the dominant part. In 2014, alone Panini Spa was able to increase its turnover (the value of its production) from €209 million in 2013 to €328.6 million. The EBITDA nearly tripled, from €34.8 to €91.4 million, after calculating personnel costs of €31.6 million (€26.4 in 2013) among other things. Net income jumped from €5.78 million in 2013 to €59.1 million in 2014.

But these figures are just a part of the business of the Panini group. The Modena-based company controls a series of companies in various countries in Europe, South America and Asia. The consolidated financial statements of the entire group is not done by Panini, but by the company that possess the entire capital, Id 4 Investimenti SRL, based in Bologna. In the budget report it is stated that production activity is concentrated in Italy and Brazil. In 2014 the consolidated financial statements of the group shows that the total revenues (value of production) has increased from €547.7 to €758.2 million and the net profits were of €125.4 million, more than 20 times the profit of 2013, which was €6.4 million.

Where do all these profits go? The assembly that approved the budget set them aside for reserves. But there is another element worth mentioning. Panini is an Emilian company, but the ultimate shareholders are abroad, in Luxembourg. In fact, the capital of Id 4 Investimenti Srl is held by two S.A. Luxembourg-based companies, Waterfall Investments S.A. (holder of the majority stake, 76.99%) and Artemis Connections S.A. (holder of 23.01%). The S.A. nature of these companies means that the “cards” of the real owners of Panini remain faceless.