German group anticipates big Q4 record sked.

Bertelsmann AG today (Nov. 9) reported gains in third-quarter operating profit on the back of solid contributions across its portfolio of interests.

According to a Bertelsmann statement, all of the group's divisions in the July-September quarter "contributed to this improved earnings situation, except the BMG music division," which it said has scheduled "the bulk of its new releases in the recorded-music business for the last quarter of 2005."

The company predicted improved full-year financial results across the group, helped by the strong fourth-quarter release schedule at Sony BMG, its joint venture with Sony Corp. Sony BMG has slated albums from Maroon 5, Outkast, Santana and Shakira for Q4.

Guetersloh, Germany-based Bertelsmann said it operating earnings before interest, tax and special items in the third quarter rose 21.8% to €263 million ($309 million).

Group revenue during the period came to €4.3 billion ($5.06 billion), up 12.5% on the same quarter last year.

In the nine months to the end of September, operating EBIT rose by 11.7% to €907 million ($1 billion). Group sales improved 2.7% to €12.3 billion ($14.4 billion).

Siegfried Luther, vice chairman of the Bertelsmann executive board and CFO, noted that recent strategic acquisitions have underpinned group growth. "Our results are showing positive development. We will stay the course and continue to expect an increase in revenues and earnings for all of 2005," Luther said in a statement.

Bertelsmann spent €2.3 billion ($2.7 billion) on acquisitions during the period, up from €588 million ($692 million) last year. In the first nine months of the year, Bertelsmann raised its stake in European TV broadcaster RTL Group to 90.4%, while RTL in turn raised its stake in Britain's national terrestrial broadcaster Channel Five.

Group debt in the first nine months rose to €4.2 billion ($4.9 billion), up from €2.6 billion ($3 billion) at the end of 2004.

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