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Guetersloh, Germany

Revenues: $19.07 billion

Profit: $3.26 billion

Going public was previously unthinkable at Bertelsmann AG, the owner of such media properties as publisher Random House and BMG Music. Now, after 166 years in the biz, the flotation date is all but set. Bertelsmann already has instigated various strategies, including a high-profile image campaign, designed to whip the company into IPO shape.

A 10% increase in return on sales and a move to become the majority owner in more of its subsidiaries are high on the priority list, as is increased synergy between its various divisions — newly restructured into three distinct areas: services, content and direct customer businesses.

Performing well is television unit RTL Group, in which Bertelsmann became the majority shareholder this year by swapping a 25.1% stake in Bertelsmann proper for 30% of RTL with Groupe Bruxelles Lambert in an unprecedented move that opened up the parent company to outside investors.In the last financial year, Random House upped earnings by 7% while, for the first time in its 15-year history, music division BMG is predicting losses of around $300 million for the year.

Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Middelhoff blames the red ink on Internet activities. As a result, Web investment companywide will be reduced by nearly 60% from a current DM1.37 billion ($637 million) by next year.