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Bertelsmann to Float BOL in Second Quarter

European media group Bertelsmann AG says it will float its online bookstore BOL on the Neuer Markt in the second quarter.

Proceeds from selling up to a quarter of the shares in bol.de will raise funds for expanding the e-commerce operation into other areas. However, Bertelsmann says its does not expect to branch out into Amazon-style selling of non-media products.

"Going public will put us in the position to further accelerate the establishment of BOL as number one in international media e-commerce," said BOL President and Chief Executive Officer Heinz Wermelinger.

Bertelsmann said it would move the BOL headquarters from Switzerland to Germany when it floats the company.

BOL has several international sites, including BOL UK, and it now plans to increase its localization, using the funds raised in the flotation.

Bertelsmann said BOL had plans to move into Asia, while in the United States and Canada it will continue its association with Barnes & Noble Inc.

Various estimates have been placed on the value of BOL, some observers saying that the whole company could be worth as much as $5 billion.

BOL has faced tougher competition in the U.K. than in the rest of Europe, with the strong presence of Amazon.co.uk and the increasing strength of W.H. Smith.

Last week, W.H. Smith said that it aims to take a 30 per cent share of the U.K. online book market, helped by the leverage of its popular free ISP. Like Bertelsmann, it will spin off its online bookstore when it believes the time is ripe.

Following its IPO, Bertelsmann is likely to go on the acquisition trail, snapping up smaller European operations to add critical mass while shutting down potential competition.