Springer rattles media landscape with bid for biggest newspaper rival

A surprise bid by Germany’s biggest newspaper firm Axel Springer for the second-largest group WAZ has rattled the media landscape, prompting speculation over possible ulterior motives.

Springer rattles media landscape with bid for biggest newspaper rival
Photo: DPA

Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung Group owns more than 27 daily newspapers across Germany as well as important publications elsewhere in Europe, while Springer owns the Bild tabloid as well as Die Welt and a host of magazines.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Saturday that Springer had offered €1.4 billion for the whole WAZ group, but had also suggested a series of other, partial purchase offers.

Only a few years ago the WAZ Group had offended Springer with a buy-out offer. At the time Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner had rejected it, saying the two groups did not fit together. Yet now he has sent a five-page letter detailing his offers to the WAZ shareholders.

It has been seen as an attack on the WAZ group – just as it is being shaken by arguments between the heirs of its founders, who each own 50 percent of its shares.

Petra Grotkamp, from the Funke family has reportedly upset her own relatives by offering the shareholding family, the Brosts, €470 million for their share. The Süddeutsche Zeitung said this could lead to court cases.

Grotkamp and the Funke family told Springer on Friday evening they were not interested in the offer. “There is no chance of negotiations with Axel Springer,” they said in a statement.

The Brost family – some of whom are underage – are said to want to sell, but are being represented by the executor of a will.

And while speculation can continue about what Springer might be interested in – perhaps the WAZ-owned Austrian tabloids Krone and Kurier, a range of women’s magazines, or listings magazines – it would seem any kind of sale would be unlikely.

An analysis in Der Spiegel suggested anything less than a full buy-out would be unfitting to Springer’s business style – and even if this were of interest to the WAZ owners, would be viewed very critically by Germany’s cartel office.

The magazine concluded it was likely that Springer had made its bid to muddy the waters within its rival and make it difficult for clear decisions to be made.

The Local/hc

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Google News to return to Spain after seven-year spat

Google announced Wednesday the reopening of its news service in Spain next year after the country amended a law that imposed fees on aggregators such as the US tech giant for using publishers’ content.

Google News to return to Spain after seven-year spat
Google argues its news site drives readers to Spanish newspaper and magazine websites and thus helps them generate advertising revenue.Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

The service closed in Spain in December 2014 after legislation passed requiring web platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay publishers to reproduce content from other websites, including links to their articles that describe a story’s content.

But on Tuesday the Spanish government approved a European Union copyright law that allows third-party online news platforms to negotiate directly with content providers regarding fees.

This means Google no longer has to pay a fee to Spain’s entire media industry and can instead negotiate fees with individual publishers.

Writing in a company blog post on Wednesday, Google Spain country manager Fuencisla Clemares welcomed the government move and announced that as a result “Google News will soon be available once again in Spain”.

“The new copyright law allows Spanish media outlets — big and small — to make their own decisions about how their content can be discovered and how they want to make money with that content,” she added.

“Over the coming months, we will be working with publishers to reach agreements which cover their rights under the new law.”

News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions have long seethed at the failure of Google particularly to pay them a cut of the millions it makes from ads displayed alongside news stories.

Google argues its news site drives readers to newspaper and magazine websites and thus helps them generate advertising revenue and find new subscribers.