UPDATE 1-Medical supplier weighs into Rhoen takeover tussle
* B. Braun Holding ups stake in Rhoen to 5 percent
* Sources say B. Braun Holding opposes Fresenius deal
* Fresenius looking into new Rhoen bid this week-sources (Adds background, details)
By Ludwig Burger and Andreas Kröner
FRANKFURT, Aug 27 (Reuters) - The family behind medical supplies maker B. Braun has raised its stake in German hospitals operator Rhoen-Klinikum to 5 percent, posing a fresh challenge to rival Fresenius as it weighs whether to launch a new bid for Rhoen.
In June, an initial 3.1 billion euro ($3.8 billion) bid from Fresenius fell short of the 90 percent acceptance it needed among Rhoen shareholders.
That followed the purchase of a 5 percent stake in Rhoen by unlisted rival Asklepios, owned by founder Bernard Broermann. Sources close to the matter said B. Braun and hospitals operator Sana joined Asklepios in opposing the deal.
B. Braun Holding, through a spokesman for its legal counsel Clifford Chance, said on Monday it had lifted its stake in Rhoen to 5 percent from below 3 percent.
"The purchase was made in the belief in a continued positive development of the private hospitals market in Germany," the spokesman said, declining to elaborate.
B. Braun competes with Fresenius in medical equipment such as infusion and tube feeding supplies as well as dialysis machines. The privately-held group risks losing an important client if Rhoen becomes part of Fresenius' hospitals division.
Rhoen's share fell by as much as 2.5 percent on Monday, with one trader saying there were now more doubts about a renewed takeover attempt by Fresenius.
The shares later pared losses to trade down 0.7 percent at 20.12 euros by 1540 GMT.
Industry sources have told Reuters that Fresenius is preparing to revive its takeover approach for Rhoen, lowering the acceptance hurdle to 50 percent plus one share in a bid to prevent rivals from sabotaging a tie-up.
They have said Fresenius' supervisory board would look into the possibility of a fresh takeover offer this week, but it remains unclear whether it will go ahead.
While no official tally is available, industry experts estimate that investors opposing a Fresenius-Rhoen combination now hold almost 20 percent in Rhoen between them.
The unusually high acceptance hurdle that was part of the Fresenius's initial bid reflected Rhoen's bylaws for capital changes. If Fresenius lowered the acceptance threshold, it would limit the control it could exert over Rhoen.
The 90 percent rule was initially intended as a safeguard against unsolicited takeover offers but for Rhoen founder Eugen Muench, who has championed a tie-up with Fresenius, it has proved a major headache. (Editing by Mark Potter)
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