Watchdog bites Springer

Publisher has 4 weeks to petition for waiver

BERLIN — Germany’s Federal Cartel Office on Monday rejected publisher Axel Springer’s bid for Haim Saban’s ProSiebenSat 1 TV group.

But don’t write off the $3 billion deal yet.

Europe’s biggest newspaper publisher, which had expected the ruling, has four weeks to petition the office of Economics Minister Michael Glos for a waiver; alternatively, it can challenge the decision in court.

The antitrust watchdog had expressed concern that the takeover would stifle competition by leaving the German advertising market dominated by Springer and Bertelsmann’s RTL broadcasting unit.

Yet Springer has a solid chance of getting government approval for the acquisition.

The publisher has backing from the ruling Christian Democratic party. Pols are also loath to see ProSiebenSat 1 fall into foreign hands again.

Meanwhile, Saban has agreed to waive daily penalty interest payments of nearly $1 million, which Springer would have had to pay as of Monday, to compensate for the delayed takeover.

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