TV, music boost Bertelsmann revs

Profits up to $1.28 billion

COLOGNE — Bertelsmann’s net profit surged to just over e1 billion ($1.28 billion) last year from $206 million in 2003 due to standout perfs by TV division RTL Group and newly merged music biz Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Revenue at the German media giant nosed higher to $22.8 billion from $22.5 billion — squeezed in part by exchange rate fluctuation that saw the U.S. dollar hit record lows against the euro.

Revenue at Luxembourg-based RTL Group rose by $536 million to $6.57 billion, largely due to the full consolidation of the French channel M6 for the first time and higher profits at other nets. RTL launched Plug TV in Belgium and RTL Televizija in Croatia and acquired a stake in the Portuguese media company Grupo Media Capital.

Music merger cuts costs

Amidst another tough year for the music biz, BMG’s operating profit jumped to $217 million from $72 million, largely on cost-cutting. Revenue fell by $268 million to $3.4 billion as the weak dollar hurt euro sales. Company also noted continued issues of piracy and illegal downloading.

Usher’s album “Confessions” was a top seller for the group.

Bertelsmann emphasized that the creation of Sony BMG underscores its commitment to music as a core biz, noting its 28 Grammys. BMG’s numbers include half of the results from the Sony BMG venture as of August, when the merger closed.

Giant U.S. publisher Random House posted flat sales of about $2.4 billion. Operating income jumped to $188 million on such highlights as Bill Clinton’s “My Life” and “The Da Vinci Code.”

Magazine group Gruner + Jahr saw profit ease to $282 million and revenue dip to $3.22 billion. Company cited the exchange rate and changes in its portfolio. Unit launched more than 20 titles worldwide.

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