Axel Springer dismisses ProSieben bid

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Axel Springer, the German newspaper and online publisher, on Wednesday denied rumours it was considering a repeat of its ill-fated attempt six years ago to buy German television company ProSiebenSat.1.

Chief executive Mathias Döpfner said there were “no talks” and Springer had “no plans” to buy Germany’s second-largest free-TV company, which the private equity companies KKR and Permira are looking to sell later this year.

After its bid in 2005 was blocked by media regulators, Mr Döpfner said, Springer had adopted a successful alternative strategy of internationalising and digitising its core print business, which includes the mass market tabloid Bild.

In that same time, ProSieben had become “a much more complicated” and “highly indebted” company through its merger with the pan-European broadcaster SBS, while the recent rise in asset prices made it the “wrong time” to buy.

Although Mr Döpfner said he would “never categorically exclude” taking a look at ProSieben – especially if the company’s valuation were to drop – his words suggest that KKR and Permira will have to look for buyers oversees.

Springer meanwhile demonstrated its commitment to its strategy of widening its print-publishing expertise into the internet by buying 74.9 per cent of promotion search site kaufDa, a German online brochure and mobile coupon start-up.

This followed one of Springer’s biggest internet deals involving French property-sale website SeLoger for around €470m at the start of the year. Both moves should raise Springer’s digital sales above the 24.4 per cent seen in 2010.

The digital division’s strong organic growth and acquisitions helped raise group earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation 53 per cent to €510.6m, while total revenues rose 10.8 per cent to €2.89bn.

The sale last year of some non-core assets led to a 12.7 per cent drop in net profit to €274.1m – although the company was keen to stress that pro forma net profit adjusted for portfolio measures was up 85.5 per cent at €283.2m.

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