Norwegian media group Schibsted plans to add 200 people to its 1,800-strong technology team in the next year to further develop its online classified ads business and fend off competition from social media giant Facebook, its chief executive says.
Facebook, which is searching for new ways to engage users, launched its "Marketplace" in October where people can buy and sell items locally, in what was seen as a step into the classified advertising market.
Facebook must be taken "very seriously", Schibsted Chief Executive Rolv Erik Ryssdal said in an interview with Reuters.
"So far, we think they are enlarging the total market, but we are watching very closely what they are doing," he said.
The classified ads business accounted for 38 percent of Schibsted's revenues last year and 81 percent of its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, which amounted to 2 billion crowns ($239 million).
The launch of Facebook's Marketplace has weighed heavily on Schibsted shares, which have fallen 22 percent since October to trade around 177.6 crowns on Tuesday, a near 40 percent drop this year.
"If Facebook is serious about this and willing to say 'this is a game for me which I'm willing to play for the next five years' I think they are in a very strong position to win this game," said Thomas Schumacher, an online marketplace specialist at Digital McKinsey.