FRANKFURT B.Braun, an unlisted maker of medical devices, has acquired options to buy a stake of German hospital operator Rhoen-Klinikum, two people familiar with the matter said, further dimming Fresenius SE's chances of taking control of Rhoen.
B.Braun, which supplies products ranging from catheters to surgical Instruments, has been holding the options of up to roughly 5 percent for some time and the goal of the group - as well as that of Rhoen rivals Asklepios and Sana - is to prevent Fresenius to take control of Rhoen, one of the sources said on Friday.
Fresenius failed last month to win enough shareholder backing for its planned takeover of rival hospital operator Rhoen after unlisted peer Asklepios, controlled by founder Bernard Broermann, snapped up a 5 percent stake in Rhoen.
The moves by B.Braun and Sana should be seen as efforts to deter Fresenius to launch a new offer, in which it would contend itself with 50.1 percent of Rhoen shares, the sources said.
In April, Fresenius unveiled a plan to buy Rhoen for 3.1 billion euros ($3.8 billion), setting an unusually high acceptance hurdle of 90 percent among Rhoen shareholders, reflecting the percentage required by Rhoen's bylaws for capital changes.
Fresenius, which also makes generic infusion drugs and controls dialysis specialist Fresenius Medical Care, has said it would try to breathe new life into the hospitals deal and that it would talk to Asklepios founder Bernard Broermann, though its chances of success have been seen as slim.
As part of its failed takeover offer, Fresenius acquired a 3.6 percent in Rhoen on the open market. With the moves of Asklepios and Sana, all of Rhoen's major rivals are now shareholders and could potentially veto each other's moves.
"It's a stalemate situation," one of the sources said, adding that round table talks were now needed to break the deadlock.
B.Braun, which started 173 years ago as a pharmacy in the provincial city Melsungen and last year posted sales of 4.7 billion euros and a net profit of 256 million, has close ties to Asklepios and cooperated with the hospital group on several projects in the past. ($1 = 0.8208 euros)
(Reporting by Andreas Kröner and Frank Siebelt; writing by Arno Schuetze)