FRANKFURT Rhoen-Klinikum (RHKG.DE) shareholder B. Braun won antitrust approval for raising its stake in the German hospital operator to 25 percent, the country's Federal Cartel Office said late on Friday
Medical supplies maker B. Braun had last month requested regulatory approval as it was seeking to put more weight behind its opposition against a takeover of Rhoen by rival healthcare group Fresenius (FREG.DE) but the two have in the meantime outflanked B. Braun by agreeing on the sale of most of Rhoen's hospitals to Fresenius.
A spokeswoman for B. Braun declined to say on Friday whether B. Braun would still go ahead and raise its stake in Rhoen, even after the target company agreed to divest hospitals accounting for about two thirds of its revenues.
B. Braun, a rival of Fresenius in the hospital equipment market, bought a 5 percent stake in Rhoen last year, which initially thwarted Fresenius's ambition to create the biggest private German hospital operator.
Rhoen's bylaws require an unusually high shareholder acceptance rate of more than 90 percent for any takeover of the hospitals chain.
B. Braun, owned by the family of Chairman Ludwig Georg Braun, competes with Fresenius in hospital equipment, such as intravenous and tube feeding supplies. It was concerned it would lose Rhoen as a major client should Fresenius take it over, sources have said.
Rhoen Chairman and founder Eugen Muench, who had campaigned for the merger with Fresenius, hammered out a deal to sell large parts of Rhoen's business to Fresenius instead, saying such a deal would not require a shareholder vote.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Frank Siebelt; editing by Andrew Hay)