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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German media conglomerate Bertelsmann expects to raise as much as 1.6 billion euros ($2.1 billion) from the sale of a stake in broadcaster RTL as it seeks to fund its growth ambitions.
Bertelsmann set a price range of 54 to 62 euros per share for the secondary public offering of up to 23.2 million RTL shares, plus the optional sale of about 2.3 million depending on demand, RTL said ahead of its annual shareholders' meeting on Wednesday.
The sale will increase the proportion of freely traded RTL shares to about 24 percent of the total and cut Bertelsmann's stake to about 76 percent from 92.3 percent.
Bertelsmann has voiced ambitions to make major acquisitions and strike strategic partnerships to accelerate growth and become more international.
It aims to expand into digital content and emerging markets to complement an ailing print publishing business, where it is planning a merger with Pearson's book publisher Penguin. It has also bought out its partner, private equity group KKR & Co. LP, in music rights company BMG.
Bertelsmann is cutting its exposure to RTL at a time when broadcasters have struggled as major advertisers across Europe have cut their spending in a weak economy.
RTL said on Wednesday that advertising markets remained challenging in the first quarter of 2013, with slow growth in Germany and declines in countries like the Netherlands, France, Spain and Hungary.
RTL said it expected its first-quarter revenues came in flat from a year earlier as the sale of the Handball World Cup rights helped offset weak markets. Cost savings likely pushed up its core operating profit by a medium to high single-digit percentage in the three-month period, it said.
The offer period for RTL shares will run from April 18-29, with April 30 as the first day of trading.
At 4:45 a.m. ET, RTL shares were little changed at around 57.65 euros.
Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley are managing the public offering. BofA Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Credit Suisse are joint bookrunners.
BNP Paribas, Petercam and Societe Generale are co-lead managers, and Lazard is financial adviser on the deal.
($1 = 0.7616 euros)
Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Maria Sheahan; Editing by Victoria Bryan and Mark Potter