FRANKFURT, March 14 German antitrust regulators
approved plans by hospital operator Asklepios to take a blocking
minority of more than 10 percent in rival Rhoen-Klinikum
under certain conditions, two people familiar with
the transaction said.
Asklepios will have to sell two hospitals in the city of
Goslar, the people said on Thursday.
Should the decision by the German Federal Cartel Office
encourage Asklepios to stock up, Rhoen's options -- as it seeks
to forge an alliance or tie-up with peers -- would be limited
because Asklepios has opposed such plans.
Regulators have raised doubts over the planned share
purchase because due to Rhoen's bylaws, a stake of just 10
percent would give any shareholder a blocking minority and would
therefore give Aspklepios some control over a rival.
Asklepios last year bought a stake of less than 10 percent
in Rhoen, thwarting a plan by Fresenius, another
hospital operator, to acquire Rhoen. That would have created a
dominant private-sector player in the hospitals industry in
Germany large enough to offer its own medical insurance.
Asklepios, owned by founder Bernard Broermann, is not the
only investor hostile to the Rhoen-Fresenius tie-up.
B. Braun, which competes with Fresenius in medical equipment
such as infusion and tube feeding supplies, bought a 5 percent
stake in Rhoen.
Sources have said that B. Braun is against the tie-up
because the deal would put it at risk of losing an important
client to Fresenius' medical equipment unit if Rhoen becomes
part of Fresenius.
The owners of smaller hospital chain Sana are also said to
hold an unspecified stake and could try to block a merger to
avoid being marginalised by a new dominant competitor.
Rhoen-Klinikum said in January it will try to persuade the
shareholders that blocked its merger with Fresenius to support
Rhoen in forging an alliance with peers instead.
Rhoen's founder Eugen Muench last year failed to pull off
the deal with Fresenius after underestimating opposition from
(Reporting by Frank Siebelt and Alexander Hübner)