July 7, 2015 / 8:35 AM / 5 years ago

Axel Springer says family owners to retain control of company

Friede Springer attends the annual shareholders meeting of publisher Axel Springer in Berlin April 16, 2014. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Axel Springer (SPRGn.DE) said its majority owner Friede Springer, the company founder’s widow, would not give up control of the German publisher but did not deny outright that it was in merger talks with broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 (PSMGn.DE).

Sources had told Reuters late on Monday that Springer, the publisher of Europe’s best-selling tabloid Bild, and ProSiebenSat.1, broadcaster of mass-market hits like Germany’s Next Topmodel, had restarted talks to combine to better adapt to rapidly changing markets.

Axel Springer said on Tuesday it was sticking with plans to change its legal structure to a so-called “KGaA” from an “AG”, which would allow the Springer family to retain control of the group even if its stake falls below 50 percent from around 57 percent currently.

“Thus, speculation regarding a relinquishment of control is completely unfounded,” Springer said, but declined to comment on the “substance of market speculation”.

ProSieben has also not commented on whether it is in talks with Springer.

Shares in Axel Springer jumped as much as 8.5 percent in early trade on Tuesday and were up 5.1 percent at 49.70 euros by 0842 GMT (4.42 a.m. EDT). ProSieben was up 2.6 percent at 45.59 euros.

Springer had tried to buy ProSieben a decade ago but the deal was blocked by competition authorities and media watchdog KEK, which feared the combined company would have too much influence on public opinion.

Since then, Springer’s share price has risen by about 50 percent, giving the group a market capitalization of 4.7 billion euros ($5.2 billion), while ProSieben’s value has more than tripled to 9.8 billion.

The groups generated combined revenues of 5.88 billion euros last year, with Springer accounting for 3 billion.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Additional reporting by Hakan Ersen and Kirsti Knolle, editing by Louise Heavens

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