Bertelsmann downsizes online business

BOL.com to be folded into DirectGroup

BERLIN — Bertelsmann has announced it is folding its Internet retailer BOL.com into its book and music club division, DirectGroup, and shutting down operations altogether in some markets.

The German media giant plans to combine BOL in Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and the U.K. with its local book and music businesses, and will close its Danish and Norwegian branches.

Bertelsmann has sought to compete with leading online retailer Amazon.com, but said it expected BOL to only reach sales of DM 180 million ($80.5 million) this year. In the U.S., Bertelsmann also owns 40% of online bookshop Barnesandnoble.com.

BOL launched in 1999. A planned flotation was postponed last year due to the downturn in the fortunes of new media stocks.

Bertelsmann’s book clubs boomed in the 1950s and ’60s and helped fuel international expansion. But in recent years the clubs have been losing money and last year were shifted from Bertelsmann’s book division into DirectGroup, which is projected to have sales of $3.1 billion this year.

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