Takeover’s at risk

Sat.1 buyer balks at watchdog demand

German publishing giant Axel Springer risks having its e2.5 billion ($3 billion) takeover of Haim Saban’s ProSiebenSat.1 TV group vetoed by the media watchdog after formally rejecting its conditions on Thursday.

However, Springer offered to sell its five TV guide magazines as well as interests in joint ventures and radio stations it holds with rival Bertelsmann, to head off charges of media concentration.

Springer, eager to create a second international media powerhouse in Germany after Bertelsmann, firmly refused to budge on the demands by the Commission on Centration in the Media (KEK) that it set up an independent media advisory board to oversee the Sat.1 channel, a board that would also have control over Springer’s business plans.

KEK, which has expressed concerns about the merged company’s influence on public opinion, will meet today.

Should it veto the takeover, the deal could still be saved if 75% of state media directors overrule KEK. Springer’s takeover must also be approved by antitrust authorities.

If the takeover is blocked, Springer, which publishes a number of leading dailies including the influential Bild tabloid, has vowed to fight on by searching for an international partner.

French web TF1 is interested in acquiring a minority stake in ProSiebenSat.1 that could help Springer get its quarry, according to a report to appear in today’s Handelsblatt newspaper.

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