Bertelsmann's Sony BMG sale draws closer

German giant to return 50% stake to Sony

COLOGNE, Germany -- Bertelsmann is reportedly close to selling its half of the world's second largest music label Sony BMG back to Sony for up to $1.5 billion.

Bertelsmann CFO Thomas Rabe has met twice with Sony America finance boss Robert Wiesenthal in New York over the past month, reportedly to hammer out details of the deal.

German financial daily FT Deutschland reported that Bertelsmann is asking $1.5 billion for its 50% stake in Sony BMG but would likely settle for between $1.2 billion - $1.3 billion if certain conditions are met. Among these could be Sony BMG extending its agreement with Bertelsmann service arm Arvato to supply production, packaging and distribution services for Sony BMG.

Sony and Bertelsmann's current agreement runs out August 2009 but sources believe a deal is likely by this fall and could even come before Bertelsmann's half year results are announced August 28. A Bertelsmann spokesman Wednesday told THR "no decision had been made" regarding the Sony BMG stake and declined to comment on what he termed "market rumors."

Bertelsmann CEO Hartmut Ostrowski has made it clear a BMG sale option is on the table as he moves to focus on the German media giant on its high-growth core businesses.