Consolidation of French net M6 major factor

BERLIN — German media giant Bertelsmann posted a 6% gain in first-quarter net profit Tuesday, despite a sizable dent in its bottom line left by restructuring costs of its Sony BMG joint music venture.

The privately held Bertelsmann earned E33 million ($42.5 million) on sales of $4.9 billion, up slightly from $4.8 billion in the first three months of 2004.

Company cited the full consolidation of French TV channel M6 as one of the factors behind the growth. The web contributed $32 million to Bertelsmann’s operating profit (before interest and tax), which rose 43% to $205 million.

Media giant Bertelsmann has broadcasting, music and publishing assets in 60 countries, including Random House, RTL Group, Gruner+Jahr and a 50% stake in Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Company doesn’t break down earnings by division.

Bertelsmann chief exec Gunter Thielan scored a victory Tuesday with the European Union’s approval of Bertelsmann’s plan to merge its gravure printing operations with German publisher Axel Springer.

EU began an inquiry into the proposed joint venture in late December, but ultimately ruled the merged operation wouldn’t be anticompetitive.

Bertelsmann’s Arvato and Gruner+Jahr each own 37.45% in the joint venture; Springer owns 25.1%.

(Wire services contributed to this report.)

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