Bertelsmann's RTL Sale Raises $1.8 Billion for Acquisitions

Thomas Rabe - PR Head Shot - H - 2011

The European media giant sold 17 percent of its broadcast arm RTL Group to fund international and digital expansion.

COLOGNE, Germany -- European media giant Bertelsmann has another $1.8 billion in its war chest following its sale of a 17 percent stake in its broadcasting division RTL Group, which owns 53 TV channels in 10 countries as well as production group FremantleMedia, makers of American Idol and The X Factor.

The sale of 25.5 million shares in RTL leaves Bertelsmann with a 75.1 percent controlling stake in the group but provides the Germany-based company with much-needed liquidity. Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe has said he plans to spend as much as $4 billion (€3 billion) over the next three years on acquisitions aimed at making the Eurocentric old-media company more international and digitally savvy.

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“Our goal is to make Bertelsmann a faster growing, more digital and more international company in the years ahead," Rabe said in a statement.

Fast-growing markets in India, China and Brazil are prime targets for Bertelsmann's shopping spree, as are Silicon Valley and its regional equivalents worldwide.

At $72.5 (€55.5), the price for the RTL share sale was at the low end of the original range Bertelsmann had set (between €54 and €62 a share).

RTL Group began listing on the Frankfurt stock exchange Tuesday, trading at just below €55 a share. The stock is also listed in Brussels and Luxembourg.