Hungary downsizes Bertelsmann

Germany's conglom faces anti-trust violations

BERLIN — Government regulators in Hungary are demanding that Germany’s Bertelsmann decrease its media holdings in the country to avoid anti-trust violations.

While its powerful TV subsidiary RTL holds a 49% stake in the very successful RTL Klub TV web, Bertelsmann’s Gruner + Jahr publishing division owns 68% of Hungary’s biggest daily newspaper, Nepszabadsag.

From a financial point of view, RTL Klub is the bigger moneymaker.

RTL has said it wants to keep its share in the successful web, which was launched in 1997 and started making a profit last year.

For Gruner + Jahr, however, its majority share in Nepszabadsag has significant symbolic and political value: Not only was it the company’s first stake in a foreign publication, but also, in 1990, a major post-Cold War investment in a former communist country.

Bertelsmann was notified in August by authorities in Budapest that it had 180 days to comply with the order. While Bertelsmann has not officially said how it plans to settle the problem, company topper Thomas Middelhoff will have to decide soon where he’s going to cut.

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