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After a massive decline of sales, the German Weltbild publishing group, which has 6,800 employees and is entirely owned by the Catholic Church, has filed for bankruptcy.
The publisher’s owners – 12 Catholic dioceses, the Church’s Berlin-based military chaplaincy and the Association of German dioceses – took the decision following disappointing Christmas sales and because it said it would have needed to find several hundred million euros by 2017 to keep the firm afloat.
Last October its owners had to invest €60m (£50m) in order to plug a “liquidity gap” in time for the Christmas season.
The bishops of the dioceses concerned decided that investing yet more church tax money in the concern was irresponsible and so filed for bankruptcy.
Until recently Weltbild was one of Europe’s major booksellers, but it has faced increasing competition from online retailer Amazon.
The powerful German trade union ver.di sharply criticised the church owners.
Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, where 2,200 employees are in danger of losing their jobs, said he was bitterly disappointed that efforts to reconstruct Weltbild had failed. “The Augsburg diocese will share all attempts to help both materially and in showing solidarity. My thoughts are with the employees,” he said.