Bertelsmann Investor Floats IPO Plan

31 January 2006

The ruling dynasty at Europe's largest media group Bertelsmann, is preparing for a €17 billion ($20.54bn; £11.64bn) flotation, despite its opposition to the plan.

The Mohn family, led by matriarch Liz, has been wrong-footed by the decision of Belgian financier Albert Frère and his investment company Groupe Bruxelles Lambert to call for the float of GBL's 25.1% stake in 2007.

The family and its foundation, which together control the rest of Bertelsmann, must now decide whether to reluctantly agree to the IPO or to buy GBL's €5bn slice with the help of a bank or an investor.

Gütersloh-headquartered Bertelsmann, whose holdings include UK TV broadcaster Five, the European TV group RTL and publisher Gruner + Jahr, says it is prepared for an IPO.

Ceo Gunter Thielen's public response is to hype and hype again: "Bertelsmann has developed strongly in the last years and increased its profits considerably. Our divisions hold leading positions in their markets. Bertelsmann is an exciting company with a promising future."

While GBL ceo Thierry de Rudder observed somewhat cryptically: "We are at the very beginning." He adds that as a shareholder, the company has only made a decision to dispose of parts of its stake. Although he still sees an IPO as "likely", he maintains there are alternatives.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff