Aftonbladet to launch free paper

Norwegian media group Schibsted on Friday said its Aftonbladet arm was to launch a free newspaper in Sweden next month with an initial circulation of 300,000.

The paper will be called “.SE” after the Scandinavian country’s internet suffix, and is set to be distributed in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.

Schibsted is already a major player on the Swedish newspaper market, as the owner of Svenska Dagbladet and a minority shareholder in Aftonbladet.

.SE is expected to contribute with an operating loss of around 50 million kronor for 2006, falling to a loss of 135 million kronor in 2007.

However, adjusted for extra advertising revenues for the Aftonbladet group, the operating loss from the paper is expected to be around 80 million kronor in 2007.

Schibsted said that .SE is expected to become profitable after three years of operation.

The company had already announced “new initiatives” that would cost it between 350 and 370 million kronor in 2006.