Germany's Bertelsmann Posts Record First-Quarter Profit

Thomas Rabe - PR Head Shot - H - 2011

The media giant, which owns “American Idol” producer FremantleMedia, recorded earnings of $267 million, up 43 percent over the year-ago period.

CANNES -- European media giant Bertelsmann on Thursday posted a record first-quarter profit of $267 million (€207 million).

That marked a 43 percent jump over the year-ago period thanks to earnings from newly-acquired music rights group BMG and a solid performance of the German TV market.

Bertelsmann took full control of BMG from private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts earlier this year, giving Bertelsmann the rights to more than one million songs, including works from Bruno Mars, Duran Duran, Johnny Cash and It also represents the composition and recording master rights for the likes of Bryan Ferry, Nena and Anastacia.

Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe further filled the company's war chest with its sale last month of a 17 percent stake in its most profitable division, RTL Group, which raised $1.8 billion. TV powerhouse RTL Group owns 53 TV channels in 10 countries, as well as production group FremantleMedia, the company behind such hit shows as American Idol and The X Factor.

The cash from the RTL sale will give Rabe some breathing room as he moves to restructure the massive media company and shift Bertelsmann's focus from slow or stagnant markets in Europe towards the higher-growth territories of Asia and Latin America.

Rabe said he was also confident regulators would approve Bertelsmann's other big deal, the merger of book publishers Random House and Penguin, in the second half of the year.

While Bertelsmann's first-quarter profits were strong, quarterly revenue from continuing operations slipped slightly to $4.68 billion (€3.63 billion).