FRANKFURT Aug 30 Munich prosecutors are
investigating a case of suspected market manipulation related to
last year's failed attempt to take over German hospitals chain
Rhoen-Klinikum by rival Fresenius.
"There is an investigation based on accusations of market
manipulation and attempted coercion," Munich head prosecutor
Thomas Steinkraus-Koch said on Friday.
He added that the criminal investigation, launched in early
July, was linked to the purchase of a stake in Rhoen by unlisted
rival Asklepios, which took place after diversified healthcare
group Fresenius made its offer for Rhoen.
Several people are under investigation, Steinkraus-Koch
said, declining to name them.
Rhoen's bylaws required Fresenius to seek 90 percent
shareholder approval for its bid and the purchase of a stake of
less than 10 percent in Rhoen by Asklepios was enough to prevent
Fresenius from clearing that hurdle.
Fresenius later abandoned a plan to launch a bid based on a
lower acceptance threshold, which would not have given it full
control over the target.
Asklepios opposed the Rhoen-Fresenius combination because it
feared the emergence of a dominant player able to trump rivals
when public-sector hospitals are put up for auction.
Asklepios, owned by founder Bernard Broermann, was not the
only investor hostile to the Rhoen-Fresenius tie-up. The owner
of B. Braun, which competes with Fresenius in medical equipment
such as infusion and tube feeding supplies, bought a 5 percent
stake in Rhoen last year.
Sources have said B. Braun feared the deal would have put it
at risk of losing client Rhoen to Fresenius's medical equipment
A spokesman for Eugen Muench, Rhoen's founder and
supervisory board chairman, said Muench was not under
investigation, declining to comment further.
A Rhoen spokesman said he was not aware of the company being
subject to a probe. A spokeswoman for B. Braun declined to
comment, while officials at Fresenius and Asklepios were not
immediately available for comment.
(Editing by David Holmes)