Rhoen chairman files complaint against Asklepios executives
FRANKFURT, Sept 2
FRANKFURT, Sept 2 (Reuters) - The founder and chairman of German hospitals chain Rhoen-Klinikum has filed a legal complaint against the owner of rival Asklepios, which last year thwarted Rhoen's plans for a merger with healthcare group Fresenius.
Rhoen Chairman Eugen Muench has accused Asklepios owner Bernard Broermann, Asklepios Chief Executive Ulrich Wandschneider and two more executives of market manipulation and attempted coercion, a spokesman for Muench said on Monday.
A spokesman for Asklepios said such accusations were without any merit, referring to the complaints against Broermann and the other executives.
Munich prosecutors had already said on Friday they were investigating suspected cases of market manipulation and attempted coercion linked to Fresenius's failed attempt to buy Rhoen-Klinikum last year, but did not provide names.
This criminal investigation in Munich, launched in early July, relates to unlisted rival Asklepios buying a stake in Rhoen after Fresenius made its takeover offer.
German financial markets regulator BaFin had said on Friday the watchdog had not found any irregularities that would point to market manipulation after it was asked by Munich prosecutors to look into the matter.
Individuals in Germany can make legal complaints with the police or prosecutors when they suspect a criminal offence.
The investigation marks the latest twist in a long-running saga over the failed Rhoen-Fresenius deal. Asklepios was not the only investor hostile to the tie-up. The family of Ludwig Georg Braun, which owns B. Braun - a competitor of Fresenius in medical equipment - bought a 5 percent stake in Rhoen last year.
Fresenius and Rhoen planned to create a network of hospitals large enough to offer medical insurance in Germany. Fresenius owns Germany's largest private-sector hospitals chain Helios, when measured by 2012 revenue. Asklepios and Rhoen are a close second and third in that market.
Asklepios had opposed the Rhoen-Fresenius tie-up because it could create a dominant player able to trump rivals when public-sector hospitals were put up for auction.
Rhoen's bylaws required Fresenius to seek 90 percent shareholder approval for its bid so when Asklepios bought a stake of less than 10 percent in Rhoen this was enough to prevent Fresenius from clearing that hurdle.
Muench had initially invited Fresenius to make its bid and has continued to campaign for the merger. (Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Frank Siebelt. Editing by Jane Merriman)