Springer blocks Kirch sale

Buys more time to negotiate with Ringier

BERLIN — German publishing group Axel Springer won a temporary injunction from a Munich court on Tuesday blocking bankrupt media baron Leo Kirch from selling his 40% stake in Springer without the publisher’s approval.

The injunction will give Springer more time to negotiate with Swiss publisher Ringier.

Kirch also was in talks with German publishing group WAZ, but the conservative Springer, which controls Germany’s most popular tabloid Bild, opposes WAZ taking a major chunk of its company.

“In the end, the price will likely be the deciding factor,” a source close to Kirch said. WAZ is offering n960 million ($956 million) for the stake.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has categorically denied rumors that it also was in talks with Springer to pick up the Kirch stake.

While the court injunction temporarily ties Kirch’s hands, he reportedly has taken legal action of his own to reverse the decision.

Sources close to Kirch believe Springer’s move will have little chance of stopping the sale, adding that the publisher is making itself vulnerable to legal action if it succeeds in postponing a deal.

Kirch has until Sept. 10 to sell the stake or it goes to the Deutsche Bank, which collateralized it against a $725 million loan.

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