Axel Springer AG, Germany’s biggest newspaper publishing group, said Thursday it was selling two metropolitan newspapers and a range of magazines to a competitor, Funke Mediengruppe, for 920 million euros (1.22 million dollars).
A joint statement said Springer was refocussing away from print towards the digital media which provided more than a third of its revenues last year. Springer owns web portals specializing in real-estate, job listings and used cars.
Berlin-based Springer is keeping its two national newspapers, the mass-circulation Bild and the more upscale Die Welt. Springer chief executive Mathias Doepfner said they remained “core” properties.
Investors welcomed the sale, with shares in Axel Springer jumping 11 per cent to 38.335 euros, their highest since April 2012. Analyst Christoph Schlienkamp at Bankhaus Lampe called the deal “very good news.” The sale marks a major turn in Springer’s history. Company founder Axel Springer (1912—1985) went into business with a radio programmes magazine, Hoerzu, in bombed-out Hamburg in 1946 and a city daily newspaper, the Hamburger Abendblatt, two years later.
Both foundation titles are being disposed of, along with another metropolitan daily — the Berliner Morgenpost, giveaway suburban titles, four more TV listings titles and two women’s magazines.
Funke Mediengruppe — formerly WAZ Mediengruppe — is a major publisher of metropolitan newspapers on Germany’s western rim. Its flagship title is the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.
Funke noted in the joint statement that it would become “a leading national publisher” thanks to the acquisition.
Springer said in Berlin a binding preliminary agreement had been signed, but the sale remained subject to regulatory approvals, which were not expected before the end of this year. The sale would take effect January 1.
A spokesman for Germany’s Federal Cartel Office said, “We will have to examine this merger plan very closely.” Springer and Funke also said they would set up a joint venture to sell advertising and operate distribution.
A spokesman for a journalists’ trade union, the DJV, said he was concerned the acquisition of the titles by Funke would lead to job losses. “To a big degree, Springer is getting out of publishing,” said Stefan Endter, manager of the DJV’s Hamburg office.