Kirch ups DSF stake

Taurus unit gets bullish on sports web

BERLIN – German publishing giant Axel Springer Verlag AG announced Thursday that it will sell its share in German sports web DSF to Kirch Group subsidiary Taurus Vermoegensverwaltungs GmbH.

Taurus will thereby up its 24.5% stake in the web to 49.4%, making it the largest shareholder. Other partners include Italian media mogul Silvio Berlusconi’s Rete Invest Holding S.A. with a share of 33.5%, and Zurich-based Ringier AG with 17.1%.

According to Springer, both partners have agreed to the transfer of its stake to Taurus, but the transaction must be approved by German cartel and media authorities.

DSF cooperates closely with the Bavarian-based Kirch Group’s DF1 digital pay TV platform, launched last July. DSF produces programming for DSF Plus, DF1’s sports channel. Live events shown on DSF Plus are often broadcast later over DSF.

The constellation of shareholders in DSF may change again if Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB takes a 25% stake in the sports channel, as discussed with German TV kingpin Leo Kirch in July, when BSkyB agreed to purchase a 49% share in DF1.

Springer, 35% of which is owned by the Kirch Group, is concentrating on gaining more control over Germany’s No. 2 private web SAT1, in which it holds a direct stake of 20%. By buying up shares of smaller partners, Springer chief exec Juergen Richter wants to come close to matching Kirch’s 43% share in SAT1 and halt the web’s downward slide in the ratings.

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