* Fresenius, B. Braun say in talks with Asklepios, Rhoen
* Any deal could eliminate uncertainty over Rhoen
* B. Braun has blocking minority in Rhoen
(Adds details on B. Braun, Asklepios's options, background)
By Ludwig Burger and Frank Siebelt
FRANKFURT, Nov 18 German hospitals chain
Rhoen-Klinikum is in talks to settle a dispute with
dissident shareholders who have opposed a tie-up with
diversified healthcare group Fresenius, two of the
companies involved said on Monday.
Fresenius tried to take over Rhoen last year but failed
after two shareholders blocked it. In September, it agreed to
buy about two thirds of Rhoen's assets in a deal it said does
not require shareholder approval.
Rhoen shareholder B. Braun, a medical supplies maker who had
opposed the Fresenius-Rhoen tie-up, lifted its stake in Rhoen to
an 11 percent blocking minority on Oct. 15.
A spokesman for Fresenius and a spokeswoman for B. Braun
told Reuters that four-way talks with Fresenius and another
Rhoen shareholder, unlisted hospitals chain Asklepios, were
underway in an attempt to settle the acrimonious dispute.
An agreement could see the 3.1 billion euros ($4.2 billion)
hospitals deal finally go ahead.
A spokesman for Rhoen Chairman and founder Eugen Muench and
an Asklepios spokesman both declined to comment. Rhoen had no
The Fresenius spokesman added that Fresenius's purchase of
hospitals that account for about two thirds of Rhoen's revenues
was on track and would not be called into question during the
"We are trying to create a situation where people no longer
act against one another. We have an interest in everyone in the
industry being able to again interact in a sensible way," said a
Legal experts and people familiar with the matter said that
while B. Braun and Asklepios have decided not to seek an
injunction against the hospitals deal, they could still call an
extraordinary general meeting at Rhoen to request a vote on an
investigation into the legality of the hospitals deal.
B. Braun and Asklepios could also take active roles in the
ongoing checks by Germany's antitrust watchdog of the hospitals
transactions, which could cause further delays.
Several sources said that talks are being held in person,
with Fresenius Chief Executive Ulf Schneider, Asklepios owner
Bernard Broermann, Rhoen's Muench as well as B. Braun Chairman
Ludwig Georg Braun and B. Braun CEO Heinz-Walter Grosse
B. Braun, owned by the family of 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.
Asklepios has feared the emergence of a dominant rival.
(Editing by Maria Sheahan and Louise Heavens)