The hottest game in Frankfurt town next Tuesday will be Deutsche Bank’s auction at the Hilton Hotel of its 40% holding in German publishing giant Axel Springer – Europe’s largest newspaper publisher.

The stake was acquired by the bank from the now bankrupt Kirch Gruppe as collateral for a €720 million loan. Ownership passed to the bank by default on September 10 following Kirch’s bankruptcy.

The public auction of the key strategic stake is bitterly opposed by Springer, although it will almost certainly have laid plans to ensure the holding is acquired by an ally [such as Swiss rival Ringier with which it is currently in merger talks: WAMN, 23-Sep-02], or a friendly banker.

However, such plans could well be scuttled by robust offers from other interested sources such as German regional publisher WAZ Gruppe – or even, it is whispered, News Corporation.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff