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.

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