CLT-Ufa’s ’98 loss may reach $311 mil

BERLIN — CLT-Ufa, a joint venture of Luxembourg-based broadcaster CLT and German media giant Bertelsmann, is expected to rack up an operating loss of 550 million marks ($311 million) in 1998, German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Friday.

In September, the partners said losses for the year would amount to $226 million. According to the magazine, CLT-Ufa is considering closing French TV web RTL9 and a British radio station, as well as shedding its shares in TV networks RTL7 in Poland and Club RTL in Hungary.

CLT-Ufa rep Sabine Fuellhaas denied that the group plans to sell or liquidate any of its investments.

While she would not comment on the amount of the loss in the Der Spiegel report, Fuellhaas acknowledged that CLT-Ufa will face continuing losses. But, Fuellhaas added, “it is perfectly normal to lose money when you are investing in new businesses.”

CLT-Ufa’s decision to join forces with the Kirch Group in building up digital pay TV in Germany has been a significant strain on CLT-Ufa’s purse. The EU is currently debating its approval of the merger. Other investments such as the newly launched British web Channel 5 are also taking their toll on CLT-Ufa’s books.

In related news, Kirch and CLT-Ufa have submitted another part of their digital pay TV merger project to EU competition authorities.

The commission will examine the new shareholder structure of Kirch’s BetaResearch, which developed the technology behind the D-Box digital decoder. CLT-Ufa and German telco Deutsche Telekom have agreed to buy shares in the company.

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