German media group Bertelsmann moved closer to becoming a publicly listed company on Friday. Chief executive Gunter Thielen said that the company would be ready for an initial public offering, possibly after May.
Bertelsmann is Europe's largest media concern
Thielen said that Bertelsmann AG would be prepared for a possible share offering after minority shareholder Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL) said it would exercise its right to request an IPO.
Bertelsmann's family shareholders were long believed to be opposed to opening up the group's share capital to the public, but the company has changed its tune, saying it is "ready" and had done all the homework for a flotation.
"We're prepared," Thielen said in a short statement in response to GBL's announcement that it might seek an IPO of its 25.1 percent stake possibly after May.
"We have made the necessary efforts in the last years to prepare for a possible IPO," Thielen said.
The group published its accounts according to IFRS international accounting standards, obtained financing from the debt capital markets, had strong credit ratings and active investor relations, the chairman said.
"In short, we're prepared for an IPO. 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."
Bertelsmann CEO Gunter Thielen
A majority stake in the Gütersloh-based company, Europe's largest media conglomerate, is controlled by the Mohn family, directly and through a foundation.
The voting rights are divided between GBL with its 25.0 percent and the Bertelsmann Verwaltungsgesellschaft, which represents the interests of the Mohn family, with the 75.0 percent.
The Financial Times had reported in its Friday edition that GBL would present the Mohn family with a choice of paying about five billion euros ($ 6 billion) to buy it out or accede to a long-resisted stock market listing.
The paper said that the Mohn family would now have to decide whether to allow an IPO to go ahead or whether to borrow money, possibly via the sale of key assets, to buy GBL's stake.