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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Bertelsmann ditches Bol.com
Bertelsmann headquarters
Bertelsmann is going back to its bookselling roots
German media giant Bertelsmann has confirmed rumours that it is to retreat from loss-making online bookseller Bol, turning back instead to its traditional book clubs business.

Bertelsmann's DirectGroup, which runs the firm's e-commerce and book club operations, said it was examining options for the disposal of Bol throughout Europe - options that could include selling or closing it.

Until recently, Bol was at the heart of Bertelsmann's e-commerce strategy, a strategy that aimed to transform the venerable media group.

Bertelsmann has been reviewing its online operations since Thomas Middelhoff was ousted as chief executive in July amid discontent over the firm's rapid drive into fashionable businesses.

Clubbing together

Bol has proved a persistent financial drain on Bertelsmann, posting losses of 30m euros (19.1m; $29.5m) last year, and accounting for less than 4% of DirectGroup's sales.

Although most of Bol will be hived off, operations in China and Italy - where it is well integrated into local book clubs - will be retained.

These book clubs, the foundation on which Bertelsmann's 17bn-euro-revenue business is based, are now at the heart of its strategy again, said DirectGroup chief executive Ewald Walgenbach.

Bertelsmann is the world's number one owner of book clubs, including the Literary Guild.

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