The German cartel office disclosed Thursday that US-headquartered cable group Liberty Media is seeking permission to purchase a 22% holding in KirchPayTV, a unit of German media giant Kirch Gruppe.

Curiously, the disclosure coincided with claims by Liberty chairman John Malone that he was no longer interested in the holding.

Such conflicting reports will further puzzle observers of Germany’s media scene, already at a loss to explain why Liberty would want part of the cash-haemorrhaging platform. The US Group is keen to build up its content, but just how a minority stake in KirchPayTV would aid this is difficult to understand.

News that Liberty was in talks to buy the stake from BSkyB did the rounds last week, following negotiations between Malone and German media mogul Leo Kirch [WAMN:16-Nov-01]. However, a less-than-enthusiastic response from Kirch [WAMN: 19-Nov-01] prompted Malone to tell the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he had dropped the idea and favoured a commercial alliance.

The cartel office will consider the case separately from its current investigation into Liberty’s purchase of Deutsche Telekom’s cable-TV assets, a decision on which is expected January 5. This deal will make Liberty Germany’s largest cable operator, though unconditional acceptance will be less likely if the US operator is simultaneously trying to bolster its content.

News source: Financial Times