American investor KKR to claim major stake in Axel Springer

Berlin (AFP) –


German media group Axel Springer said Wednesday it has signed a deal for investment firm KKR to become its largest shareholder, with the American group making a public offer to buy up Springer's shares.

Shares in the Berlin-based publisher of major newspapers Bild and Die Welt had surged last week after the two companies revealed the talks were underway.

Under the terms, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) will offer all existing Springer investors 63 euros ($71) per share, 31.5 percent higher than the average price over the past three months.

The American firm has also struck a deal with Axel Springer's two existing biggest shareholders.

Friede Springer, widow of the group's founder, and chief executive Mathias Doepfner will not give up their stakes of 42.6 and 2.8 percent.

That means "no decisions on the shareholder level can be taken without the consent of Friede Springer," the group said, adding that this would provide "continuity in the governance and management of the company".

Elsewhere in its statement, Axel Springer cut its business forecast for 2019, pointing to revenue growth slower than hoped in an environment of sluggish economic expansion and in the teeth of a new French tax on digital firms.

The publisher now expects revenues to decline slightly compared to 2018, rather than holding steady as previously forecast, with a similar picture for adjusted operating, or underlying profit.

Last year had seen Springer boost revenues 4.1 percent, to 3.2 billion euros ($3.6 billion), for an operating profit up 4.7 percent at 528 million euros.

Some 70 percent of the group's turnover now comes from its digital activities, especially classified advertising with brands like StepStone for jobs and Logic-Immo for property.

Springer also stands behind high-profile online news brands like Politico and Business Insider, while tabloid-style Bild and broadsheet Die Welt remain landmarks in German print media despite falling sales.