Confirming Monday’s story [WAMN: 11-Feb-02], an offer has been made to the debt-beset Kirch Gruppe for its 40% stake in Germany’s largest newspaper publisher Axel Springer.

The bidder is German bank HVB Group which, it is believed, has slapped around one billion euros [$88.5m; £61.3m] on Kirch’s table.

Controlling shareholder Leo Kirch (75) has yet to accept the offer, giving rise to speculation that an auction may be under way. But time is not on the side of Kirch which is precariously perched atop a debt mountain of up to E6 billion, plus at least E2.5bn billion in other liabilities.

Springer, it is said, is eager to show the exit door wide to Kirch, the two sides having long been eyeball-to-eyeball, most recently over Springer’s insistence that Kirch honor its E767m ‘put option’ for the 11.48% stake Springer holds in Kirch’s lossmaking satellite broadcaster ProSiebenSat1.

Data sourced from: Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff