Bertelsmann Said to Work With Lazard on RTL Group Share Sale

Bertelsmann SE, Europe’s largest media company, plans to sell shares in broadcaster RTL Group SA on the open market, and is working with Lazard Ltd. on the transaction, said people familiar with the matter.

Bertelsmann and Lazard will probably pick investment banks this month to underwrite the sale, said the people, who asked not to be named because the process is private. The banks would market the shares as they would an initial public offering, since Bertelsmann owns 92.3 percent of RTL’s stock.

The media company could raise as much as 1.9 billion euros ($2.6 billion) by reducing its stake to 75 percent, based on RTL’s current share price. The sale gives Bertelsmann Chief Executive Officer Thomas Rabe access to more funds as he seeks takeover targets to accelerate growth.

Bertelsmann announced on Jan. 31 that it would lower its stake in Luxembourg-based RTL. Christian Steinhof, a spokesman for Guetersloh, Germany-based Bertelsmann, declined to comment beyond the company’s previous statements.

RTL climbed 3 cents to 70.90 euros at 10:50 a.m. in Brussels, giving the company a market value of 11 billion euros.

Europe’s largest broadcaster previously said that the timing of further stock sales would depend on a “favorable” market environment. Companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have raised $10.9 billion in share sales this year, compared with $6.4 billion in the same period a year earlier.

Paring back the stake in RTL would free up Bertelsmann funds for a larger acquisition, with potential targets including Deutsche Telekom AG’s online classifieds business Scout24 Holding GmbH as well as Springer Science & Business Media, the German academic publisher owned by EQT Partners AB, a person familiar with the matter said previously.

Closely held Bertelsmann’s assets range from magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr to outsourcing division Arvato. RTL is its biggest division by revenue and generated about 60 percent of the group’s earnings before interest and taxes in 2011.

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