* Fresenius reaches agreement with B. Braun, Asklepios
* B. Braun to withdraw lawsuit against hospitals deal
* Agreement clears path for Fresenius to buy Rhoen hospitals
* Rhoen-Klinikum shares jump to 1.5-year high
(Adds Muench comment, background)
FRANKFURT, Dec 20 Rhoen-Klinikum
shareholders B. Braun and Asklepios have agreed to drop their
opposition to the planned sale of hospitals to Fresenius SE
, clearing the way for the 3.07 billion euro ($4.2
billion) deal to go ahead.
"B. Braun and Asklepios agree to maintain neutrality toward
the sale and to refrain from taking any action against it,"
Fresenius said in a statement on Friday, adding that B. Braun
would withdraw a lawsuit it filed to contest the deal.
Braun had been concerned that it would lose Rhoen as a major
customer as a result of the sale. Unlisted hospitals chain
Asklepios had also sought to block any deal between the two
groups, fearing the emergence of a dominant rival.
Shares in Rhoen-Klinikum jumped on the news, reaching their
highest level in a year and a half. They were up 5.8 percent at
21.55 euros by 1323 GMT, while Fresenius edged 0.3 percent
higher to 111.649 euros.
Fresenius had tried to take over Rhoen last year but failed
after B. Braun and Asklepios - which currently hold 15.08
percent and about 5 percent of Rhoen shares, respectively -
In September, Fresenius agreed to buy about two thirds of
Rhoen's assets in a deal it claims does not require shareholder
The acquisition would add about 2 billion euros to Fresenius
hospitals division Helios's annual sales of 3.2 billion,
increasing its lead over unlisted rivals Asklepios and Sana and
creating Europe's biggest private hospital operator.
B. Braun, which competes with Fresenius in hospital
equipment such as intravenous and tube-feeding supplies, filed
suit to try to halt the deal.
Under the agreement announced on Friday, Fresenius will sign
a non-exclusive long-term supply agreement with B. Braun and
vows not to give preference to its own supplier, Fresenius Kabi.
Meanwhile, Asklepios will be made a "founding partner" of
the new hospital network created by the hospitals deal,
alongside Fresenius and Rhoen.
Rhoen's chairman and founder Eugen Muench, who last year
failed to overcome opposition from B. Braun and Asklepios to an
outright sale of the company to Fresenius, said in a statement
he welcomed the agreement.
"Following this rational step I am confident that the
company's strategy for handling extraordinary profit from the
transaction has a chance of winning the approval of shareholder
B. Braun and Asklepios," he said.
Rhoen had said in September it would pay out a special
dividend of up to 1.9 billion euros, or 13.8 euros per share,
following the hospitals sale, on top of its regular dividend.
($1 = 0.7316 euros)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Harro ten Wolde and
David Goodman and Jane Merriman)