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RTL ups Antena 3 stake

Move comes amid 21% revenue spike

BERLIN — The RTL Group on Wednesday posted a boost in profits and announced further plans to expand European operations by increasing its stake in leading Spanish web Antena 3.

Europe’s biggest broadcaster is boosting its 10% share in Antena 3 by an additional 6.23%, which it’s buying from the Bank of New York for 155.7 million euros ($134 million).

The company, which also produces shows such as “The Price Is Right” and “Baywatch,” said the additional stake in Antena 3 is part of its plans to fortify its position in southern Europe.

If approved by regulators, the new stake would make RTL Antena 3’s second-most-important media-sector shareholder behind Telefonica Media.

RTL’s move had been expected, as are further alliances with Spanish telco Telefonica. RTL parent company Bertelsmann has had its eye on Spain as well as other Spanish-speaking markets. In May, Telefonica and Bertelsmann, which has a stake in Lycos Europe, inked an alliance to develop e-commerce services. Telefonica is currently in the process of purchasing U.S.-based Lycos for $12.5 billion.

“Working alongside RTL Group and its partners will prove to be a very powerful tool to capitalize and rapidly cross-exchange views on the many and challenging changes that will be affecting our industry in the future,” said Juan J. Nieto, CEO of Telefonica Media and Antena 3. The Spanish web had a net profit of $116.7 million and revenues of around $575 million last year.

RTL also announced revenue and profit figures for the first half of the year, and its first results since the merger of CLT-Ufa with Pearson TV and the new company’s subsequent public listing in London. Strengthening its position in all of its core markets, RTL saw revenues rise 21% to 2.03 billion euros ($1.74 billion), while gross profits reached $272 million, a 46% boost over last year.

TV successes like “Big Brother” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” boosted company’s German webs RTL and RTL 2, and helped raise TV revenues 22% to $1.2 billion.

Company plans to float an additional 4.7%, raising its publicly owned stake to 15%. RTL shares fell 6.25% Wednesday to $129 .

RTL has TV and radio operations in 11 countries around Europe, produces some 160 TV programs in 35 countries and distributes more than 10,000 hours of programming a year.

(John Hopewell in Madrid contributed to this report.)

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