Bertelsmann Eyeing Up to $2.1 billion for RTL Group Sale

The X Factor Tate Stevens Carly Rose Unplugged - H 2012
Ray Mickshaw / FOX.

The X Factor Tate Stevens Carly Rose Unplugged - H 2012

The German media giant is selling a minority stake in its television group to raise cash for international acquisitions.

COLOGNE, Germany - Media giant Bertelsmann is set to raise up to $2.1 billion when sells off a minority stake in RTL Group, Europe's largest commercial broadcaster and owner of production giant FremantleMedia, producers of The X Factor and American Idol. Bertelsmann has set a price range of between €54-62 ($71-81) per share for a public offering comprising up to 25.5 million shares. 

The share offering kicks off Thursday and will run through April 29. On April 30, RTL will being its first day of trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchang. RTL Group today announced that it expected its first quarter operating profits (EBITA) to be up by a mid-to-high single digit percentage against last year's figures and that the German TV ad market, which forms the core of RTL's broadcast business, was up by low single digits in the first quarter. Other TV markets where RTL has channels however, including Belgium, France  the Netherlands, Spain and Hungary, were down for the quarter and overall revenues for RTL Group are expected to be flat.

The RTL share sell is part of a major strategic shift by Bertelsmann. It is spearheaded by CEO Thomas Rabe who has said he plans to spend as much as $3.9 billion (€3 billion) on acquisitions over the next three years to reduce the German company's dependence on slow growing European markets and boost business in Asia and Latin America as well as in digital and online industries. Following the sale, Bertelsmann will retain at least 75 percent of RTL Group.

For RTL, coming off a record year in which revenues hit $7.9 billion (€6 billion) and the company booked net profits of $782 million (€597 million), the Frankfurt listing should give it better access to shareholders in its biggest market.