Bertelsmann ups forecast on strong first half

Forecasting profits of more than $634 million this year

COLOGNE, Germany -- Bertelsmann, Europe's largest media group, is forecasting profits of more than €500 million ($634 million) this year, a result of having shaken off the financial albatross of money-losing Brit network Five and an advertising bounce back in its core markets.

Bertelsmann, which controls around 91% of leading Euro broadcaster RTL Group, booked net profits of €246 million ($312 million) in the first half of this year, compared to a €333 million loss over the same period in 2009. Revenue was up at €7.36 billion ($9.3 billion) against €7.08 billion.

RTL had a bumper first half, with net profits of €308 million ($391 million). Stronger ad revenues -- particularly in Germany, France and the Netherlands -- contributed to the jump. A further balance sheet boost came in July when RTL sold cash-burner Five to British publisher Richard Desmond for €124 million ($160 million).

A broad ad recovery lifted magazine division G+J, which more than doubled first half operating profits to €130 million ($165 million). And the publishing juggernaut that is Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy kept things cooking at Random House, Bertelsmann's book division. The company sold 6.5 million copies of Larsson's posthumous tomes, in print and e-book form, in the U.S. and Germany alone in the first six months of this year.