As it seeks to expand, Europe’s biggest media company, Bertelsmann, plans to spend as much as 3B euros ($3.9B) on acquisitions over the next three years, a move that reflects the current culture of increased media M&A activity in Europe. The company recently said it would reduce its stake in broadcasting giant and FremantleMedia owner the RTL Group, potentially raising about $2B. CEO Thomas Rabe said today that those proceeds coupled with about 500M euros in annual net cash flow would help fund individual deals worth “a couple hundred millions of euros,” according to Bloomberg. Bertelsmann is looking to expand into digital content and emerging markets and Rabe said, “It is our clear objective to grow the company in the next couple of years. Assuming a little bit of tailwind from a recovery in Europe, we expect to grow to 17B euros this year and 18B euros in the next.” An IPO, however, is “off the table for the foreseeable future.”
In February, Bertelsmann won Justice Department approval to create the world’s leading consumer publisher by merging its Random House with Pearson’s Penguin in a deal that will give Bertelsmann 53% of the combined group. Other current high-profile deals in the European media sector include the percolating sale of a 53% stake in German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 Media by private equity firms Permira and KKR and Liberty Global’s pending $23B acquisition of Virgin Media in the UK. In December, Discovery Communications said it was acquiring ProSieben’s SBS Nordics operations for $1.7B and taking a 20% stake in pan-European sports network Eurosport.