Teuton media conglom's revenue, profits rise

Bertelsmann saw revenue and profits climb last quarter as the family-owned German media giant continues a tense standoff with major shareholder Groupe Bruxelles Lambert.

Bank will be able to sell its 25% stake in privately held Bertelsmann in a late-May IPO and has said it plans to do so — unless Bertelsmann owner the Mohn family steps in with some big bucks.

Bertelsmann holds its annual meeting May 22, and Groupe Bruxelles can trigger a sell option the next day.

The Mohns are seriously considering buying the stake, which could fetch up to $6 billion, to take it off the market. But management is also reluctant to take on the accompanying heavy debt load. They’d happily spend their cash on strategic acquisitions.

Deals in TV, magazines and books helped Bertelsmann’s revenues soar 173% to about $5.7 billion last quarter. Net profit jumped to $113 million from $61 million. Operating profit climbed 35% to $272 million.

“Bertelsmann has had an outstanding start to the year,” said finance topper Thomas Rabe. “This strong foundation means we are best equipped for the challenges of the future. We will use our opportunities and concentrate further on healthy core businesses, targeted acquisitions and expansion in new markets.”

Bertelsmann is forecasting “discernible improvements in revenue and profit” for 2006.(Jill Goldsmith in New York contributed to this report.)

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