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Anti-trust agency rejects Springer deal

Co. given until noon Thursday to meet agency demands

Axel Springer’s troubled e2.5 billion ($3 billion) bid to acquire the ProSiebenSat.1 TV group from Haim Saban, already reeling from the German media watchdog’s demands, was dealt another blow Friday when the Teutonic anti-trust agency rejected the deal — but gave the publishing giant until noon Thursday to meet its demands.

A Springer spokeswoman confirmed that the cartel office wants Springer to sell either its flagship daily Bild, the country’s largest and most influential newspaper with a circulation of 12 million, or one of the two major webs in the deal — Sat.1 or ProSieben.

Springer chief exec Matthias Doepfner has repeatedly ruled out parting with those gems for the media empire he is hoping to create alongside Bertelsmann.

Springer has also refused demands from the Commission on Concentration 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 operations.

It has offered to sell 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 declined to comment on the deal’s future.

The cartel office, which could not be reached for comment, will announce its final ruling on Jan. 20.

Doepfner has vowed to fight on to get ProSiebenSat.1 with the help of foreign partners, possibly Gallic commercial broadcaster TF1, which is interested in a minority stake in the broadcast group.

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