Axel Springer pursues Waz Gruppe stakes

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German media group Axel Springer has offered German rival WAZ Gruppe upwards of €500m for its stakes in Austrian tabloid Kronen Zeitung, online classified ads group Markt Gruppe, and its German TV listings magazines.

The move makes good on Springer’s pledge to keep growing its online activities while also looking at what it calls “print super-brands” that it can migrate on to the web – although a deal is far from certain.

A spokeswoman for Springer, which owns German tabloid Bild, confirmed that Mathias Döpfner, chief executive, had written to the families who control WAZ with a non-binding offer to buy certain assets from one of Germany’s largest newspaper houses.

While Springer declined to talk about valuations, the FT has learnt that the group reckons WAZ’s 50 per cent stake in Kronen Zeitung, its 30 per cent in Markt Gruppe and the listings titles could be worth more than €500m.

The offer, which values the entire WAZ group at €1.4bn, comes at a sensitive time for the Essen-based company, as the heirs of the founding Funke and Brest families are in the middle of a deal which would reshuffle their current shareholding parity.

Late this summer, one member of the Funke family offered to buy the 50 per cent owned by the Brest heirs for a sum said to equal €470m. While all sides are believed to have agreed the deal in principle, Springer’s offer – and its higher valuation for the group – could add a new twist to any final agreement.

People familiar with Springer’s thinking said the move fitted into the company’s opportunistic mergers and acquisitions strategy. But they said a bid for the whole WAZ group was “highly unlikely” as cartel authorities would try to block Springer’s and WAZ’s big-selling German print titles coming together.

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