Media Giant Bertelsmann to Invest $1.1 Billion in China, India, Brazil

Ed Meza
Variety

BERLIN — German media giant Bertelsmann, which owns European broadcaster RTL Group, publishing house Penguin Random House and music rights company BMG, is to raise its investment in Brazil, India and China from €500 million ($536 million) to €1 billion ($1.07 billion) over the next three to five years.

Chief executive Thomas Rabe said in an interview with the Financial Times published Sunday that the company generated €500 million ($536 million) of its revenue — which totaled €17.1 billion ($18.3 million) last year — from growth regions such as China, and is looking to increase that to more than €1 billion ($1.07 billion) over three to five years, in part through acquisitions. Rabe added that growth opportunities in China, Brazil and India as well as the U.S. were better than in Europe.

“Bertelsmann will become much, much more international,” he said.

Bertelsmann holds stakes in some 70 startups in China, Brazil and India through various funds. The Bertelsmann Asia Investments (BAI) fund has invested in some 60 digital companies in China, including social fashion network Meili and the Keep fitness app. Since the fund’s inception in 2008, BAI has generated around $194 million from divestments, making what the company said was a significant contribution to its net income. In the first half of this year, BAI contributed gains from asset sales that amounted to €55 million ($59 million).

About 60 Bertelsmann executives from Europe, the U.S., China, India and Latin America met in Beijing last week to firm up the group’s strategic development in the BIC countries. Rabe was on hand to open the new Bertelsmann Corporate Center offices in China, from where the company will coordinate its activities in the country.

While it’s already active in the region through other high-profile divisions, namely television group RTL, Bertelsmann is focusing on a broad range of digital companies as well as media and educational content.

In Brazil, Bertelsmann has shares in Medcel, a provider of courses for medical students; corporate-training market leader Affero lab; and financial services provider Intervalor. In India, it has invested in YoBoHo, a digital children’s video content provider; online furniture marketplace Pepperfry; streaming service Saavn; university services provider iNurture; and budget hotel marketplace Treebo.

RTL is already active in Brazil, India and China, where its FremantleMedia production unit develops regional versions of such hit TV formats as “Idol” and “Got Talent” as well as other local programming.

Penguin Random House, another Bertelsmann subsidiary, is the largest English-language trade publisher in India and a market leader in the Latin American book market. In addition, music division BMG recently expanded to Brazil.

Rabe said Bertelsmann was ensuring its operations there would “make a significant contribution to the group’s overall growth in the years ahead.” The company will achieve this through further investment, increasingly in cooperation with local partners, he added.

“Bertelsmann wants to be the partner of choice for businesses and creative people who want to expand in Brazil, India and China with their businesses and ideas.”

The media conglomerate on Friday posted consolidated nine-month sales of €12 billion ($12.9 billion), down from €12.2 billion ($13.07 billion), and a 13.8% increase in net profit to €652 million ($699 million).

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