Bertelsmann AG, Europe's biggest media company, may become publicly traded for the first time as Belgium's Groupe Bruxelles Lambert SA prepares to sell its 25% stake.

Sony BMG parent Bertelsmann AG said today (Jan. 27) that it was prepared for a possible share offering after a minority shareholder said it would exercise its right to request an initial public offering.

Belgium's Groupe Bruxelles Lambert SA has said it was planning to sell its 25% stake in the German media company in May 2006. The move would force Bertelsmann to sell the shares on the stock exchange through an IPO.

"We have made the necessary efforts in the last years to prepare for a possible IPO. We are prepared for an IPO," Bertelsmann CEO Gunter Thielen said in a statement issued today. "Bertelsmann has developed strongly in the last years and increased its profits considerably. Our divisions hold leading positions in their markets. Bertelsmann is an exciting company with a promising future."

A public listing would usher in a new era of financial accountability and transparency for Bertelsmann, whose subsidiaries include BMG Music Publishing, European broadcaster RTL Group SA, and half of music major Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

The Mohn family holds the remaining 75% of Guetersloh-based Bertelsmann.

A report published today in British trade daily the Financial Times suggests that the Mohn family is against an IPO, citing an unidentified person close to the family.

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