Media co. could up IPO shares to 20% to fund buys

BERLIN — European media powerhouse CLT/Ufa is reportedly in the process of buying a U.K.-based production company and in talks with French pay TV giant Canal Plus regarding film and sporting-events rights.

Pearson TV has reportedly been in negotiations to buy British production outfit Talkback; CLT/Ufa chief operating officer Ewald Walgenbach refused to comment on the story, however.

CTL/Ufa, which merged with Pearson TV in April, is also planning to raise the amount of stock it will float in its initial public offering later this year.

At a news conference in Luxembourg on Wednesday, company officials said they wanted to increase the percentage of publicly held shares to 20% through more acquisitions to be financed by issuing new shares.

Currently, 11% is slated for a public offering. Of the new group’s main shareholders, Bertelsmann will hold 37%, Groupe Bruxelles Lambert around 30% and Pearson 22%.

According to the terms of the recent merger, Pearson TV and CLT/Ufa will combine their interests into Luxembourg-based holding company Audiofina, to be renamed and listed in London, Luxembourg and Brussels.

The group has yet to decide on a new moniker, but CEO Didier Bellens, without confirming whether the well-known RTL brand name will be employed, said he was pleased to see news reports using RTL in describing the company.

CLT/Ufa is jointly owned by Audiofina and German media giant Bertelsmann. With Pearson TV, the newly merged broadcasting behemoth is valued at more than $20 billion with annual revenues of around $4 billion.

Company posted a record net profit of 415 million euros ($374 million) last year, with revenues up by 5% to $2.76 billion. The group saw overall increases in its core businesses and reductions of initial losses.

Bellens predicted annual profit this year would be higher than 1999 but that the growth seen in the first quarter would not be exceeded.

Meanwhile, Ute Biernat has been named to head Pearson TV’s German office. Biernat has been a senior exec producer at Pearson since 1996. Pearson currently produces around a thousand hours of programming a year in Germany, seen on five different networks here.

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