Letter from
the CEO

Thomas Rabe
Chairman and CEO of Bertelsmann

Dear Readers,
Dear Friends of Bertelsmann,

We look back on a good financial year 2023. Bertelsmann’s revenues exceeded the €20 billion mark for the second year in a row. And so, despite the sale of our shares in the customer experience company Majorel, revenues remained at the previous year’s record level. We increased our Group profit by more than 25 percent. It exceeded one billion euros for the ninth consecutive year. In a persistently challenging economic environment, Bertelsmann benefited from the broad positioning and growth impetus of our Boost strategy – in 2023 alone, Boost investments amounted to €1.4 billion.

Bertelsmann’s Group revenues remained stable at the previous year’s record level of €20.2 billion, a decline of -0.4 percent. Organic growth amounted to 0.8 percent. Revenue growth, particularly in our book publishing, music and education businesses, was offset in particular by declining TV advertising revenues.

At €3.1 billion, operating EBITDA adjusted remained at the previous year’s high level. Earnings growth in Bertelsmann Education Group’s education business and the Arvato Group’s services businesses, largely compensated for the decline in RTL Group’s earnings. At €1.3 billion, Group profit was €0.3 billion higher than in the previous year. This was due in particular to the profit from the sale of the Majorel shares. Bertelsmann’s equity increased to €15.2 billion. This corresponds to an equity ratio of 46.5 percent.

In 2021 and 2022, Bertelsmann had to cancel four planned corporate transactions, three of them because of the antitrust authorities’ negative stance. We subsequently found good alternative strategic solutions: Our French TV group Groupe M6 extended the broadcasting license for its main channel, announced an investment program and ambitious growth targets for its streaming service M6+, and acquired the broadcasting rights for the 2026 and 2030 FIFA World Cups. In December 2023, RTL Group agreed to sell RTL Nederland to DPG Media for €1.1 billion, in conjunction with a comprehensive strategic partnership. Penguin Random House acquired a total of ten publishers in 2023, including a majority stake in the fast-growing publisher Sourcebooks in the United States. And finally, Bertelsmann sold its shares in the customer experience company Majorel to the market leader Teleperformance for around one billion euros.

In the future, Bertelsmann will drive growth in four directions. The first direction is our Boost program, in which we have already invested €3.9 billion since 2021. The goal is a total of five to seven billion euros by the end of 2026. The second thrust of our strategy, “Next,” is about building new lines of business with long-term revenue potential of around one billion euros. We see great opportunities here, particularly in the digital healthcare business in the United States. The third thrust, “Breakout,” is about expanding existing businesses and extending their value chains by merging with other companies, e.g., in the education sector. And the fourth thrust, “Regional Boost,” is about expanding our businesses in particularly promising regions. In addition to the United States, which will contribute the highest share of our Group revenues in a few years’ time, the focus is on Brazil, Mexico and India.

In 2023, Bertelsmann continued to make good progress with its strategic growth priorities – National Media Champions, Global Content, Global Services, Education, Investments:

National Media Champions

RTL Group counted 5.6 million paying subscribers for its streaming services RTL+ in Germany and Hungary, and M6+ in France, a 31-percent increase compared to the previous year. The channels RTL and Vox were the #1 and #2 most popular commercial channels in Germany and are the market leaders in the advertisers’ preferred demographic. By renewing the exclusive broadcasting and streaming rights for the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Europa Conference League, RTL Deutschland secured attractive sports rights through 2027. RTL Hungary acquired the broadcasting rights for the UEFA Champions League for the first time, starting with the 2024/25 season.

Global Content

The video production company Fremantle scored great successes with its entertainment shows, films, series, and documentaries. Fremantle subsidiary Element Pictures scooped up eleven Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars for “Poor Things” starring Emma Stone. In all, Fremantle received 145 awards. Penguin Random House increased its stake in US publisher Sourcebooks to 53 percent, and acquired the publishing assets of US nonfiction publisher Callisto Media. Both are among the fastest-growing publishers in the United States. One of the year’s biggest bestsellers in the United States was “Spare” by Prince Harry, where it sold more than three million copies, and six million sold worldwide by Penguin Random House and its affiliated publishers. Bertelsmann’s music subsidiary BMG made 30 catalog acquisitions, and acquired the song catalog of the British rock and pop band The Hollies, as well as a significant share of Paul Simon’s music holdings, including the rights to royalties from Simon & Garfunkel’s recordings.

Global Services

The logistics service provider Arvato opened three new distribution centers in the United States, Spain, and Poland; Arvato Systems acquired new customers in the healthcare and energy sectors, and the financial services provider Riverty deepened its customer partnerships with Easypark, among others. The global customer experience service provider Majorel, in which Bertelsmann owned a 39.5-percent stake and which the Group fully consolidated for the first ten months of the year, also grew dynamically in the past financial year and further expanded its relationships with clients in the Internet/High-Tech, Banking/Insurance, Energy/Utilities, and Tourism sectors, among others. At the beginning of November, the French company Teleperformance reported the completion of the voluntary public takeover bid for all Majorel shares it had announced at the end of April. Bertelsmann transferred its shares, and received a cash price of €685 million and around four percent of Teleperformance’s shares in return.


The Bertelsmann Education Group benefited from Afya’s dynamic growth. The Nasdaq-listed education company is a leading provider of medical education and training, as well as digital solutions for doctors in Brazil. Besides the organic expansion of its business, Afya continued its acquisition strategy, purchasing two medical universities. The acquisition increased the number of medical student seats at Afya to 3,163 per year. This means that around 21,500 medical students are currently enrolled at Afya’s universities. In addition, the e-learning provider Relias, which specializes in education and training in the healthcare sector, and the vocationally oriented Alliant International University, expanded its portfolios, and also increased the number of customers, and students.

Investment Portfolio

Bertelsmann Investments made 35 new and 16 follow-on investments in companies and funds in the past financial year, bringing the total number of its active investments to 363, 69 of these are investments in AI-focused companies. Bertelsmann Next is driving the development of new growth industries and lines of business, and strengthened its commitment in 2023, particularly in the Digital Health business, through various direct and follow-on investments, and in the HR Tech business area through acquisitions such as Studyflix, the largest career platform for pupils and students in German-speaking countries. Since the start of its fund activities in 2006, around €1.9 billion has been invested in some 500 innovative companies and funds through the network of funds, and Bertelsmann Next’s activities.

Dear readers, for 2024, we expect a moderate increase in revenues and earnings in our continuing operations.

Due to the sale of Majorel and the planned sale of RTL Nederland, we are adjusting our revenues and earnings targets for 2026 and now expect Group revenues of around €21 billion and operating EBITDA adjusted to around €3.4 billion. This does not include potential growth from breakout investments and regional boosts. The sale of Majorel and the planned sale of RTL Nederland provides us with considerable additional funds for investments and growth.

I would be delighted if you were to continue accompanying our company on its journey into the future.