INTERVIEW-Norwegian classifieds firm Schibsted stays on expansion trail

* Plans to expand into new countries, says CEO

* Will stay out of Britain, Germany

* Plenty of room to grow in France, Spain

* Financial services, payment services part of future

OSLO, April 11 (Reuters) - High-flying Norwegian media and classifieds firm Schibsted plans to keep expanding and sees a shift to mobile platforms as the advertising sector's next transformation, its chief executive said.

A cross between eBay and advertising portal Craigslist, Schibsted sells everything from cars to manure in around 30 countries, having successfully converted its print media empire to digital.

Rolv Erik Ryssdal told Reuters it has no plans to give up its media business, a sector he said synergies are increasing in as the press goes online, and the firm could also move in to new sectors including payment systems and selling travel services.

It will also move into more countries, though it plans to stay out of Britain and Germany, Europe's biggest markets, which would cost too much to enter.

"We've come further in transforming the business to digital than most traditional media houses," Ryssdal, 51, said in an interview. "Last quarter digital revenue passed 50 percent in total revenue. This transformation is moving at a rapid pace and I don't see us hitting any bump in the market."

Schibsted has found rare success among Europe's traditional publishers in recent year after separating its advertising and media businesses, letting its classifieds arm cannibalize the newspapers' market share.

It then sent the classified business on an expansion spree, becoming market leader in France and Spain while extending its range as far as Brazil and Indonesia.

Its stock has risen 65 percent in the past two years, twice the Oslo benchmark's gain. Analysts at Deutsche Bank estimate the firm is trading at 22.2 times its expected 2014 earnings, comfortably above peers' already high 20.7 ratio.


The firm's French classified site, now the most valuable part of the $6.2 billion company, will expand further into the car ad market and plans to boost its job and real estate business, said Ryssdal, under whose five-year leadership the stock has risen more than five-fold.

Spain, another key market, is showing signs of economic recovery, giving the company room to expand, but in Brazil, a market with huge potential, Schibsted is weighted down by tough competition, he said.

"We have a good company in Ireland, Finland is developing well, and I could mention Austria and Italy, but I would call these the next generation," Ryssdal said. "We're interested in getting number one positions in our markets rather than several number two or number three positions."

Run out of Oslo, the firm also has major hubs in Barcelona and Stockholm, and part of its success comes from giving local management freedom to tailor the business to local needs.

"Ads should be localized. In Sweden and Norway for example, people sell a lot of snow scooters, but that's not very useful in Malaysia, where people sell leeches, for example," Ryssdal said.

"And in France, our site is big in the countryside so we sell a lot of manure."

Ryssdal, who brought mobile telecom firm Telenor into some of its South American and Asian businesses as a shareholder last year, said moving the ad market to mobile platforms could be the sector's next big transformation.

That would offer new user interfaces with vast databases and higher customer hit frequencies.

It is also experimenting with offering limited insurance services, and developing a payment system that already has around 3 million users in the Nordics.

(Editing by John Stonestreet)