A US investment firm on Thursday acquired a 19.5% holding in Germany's Axel Springer, Europe's largest newspaper publisher.

Hellman & Friedman – which was involved in the recent purchase of German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 – bought the stake from Deutsche Bank for €350 million ($410.5m; £247.1m).

DB has been trying to offload its 40% holding in Springer for over a year [WAMN: 09-Oct-02]. The bank acquired the shares after fallen German media empire Kirch Gruppe failed to repay a €720m loan against which they had been used as collateral.

Hellman & Friedman believes the depressed German newspaper sector has good growth potential. It plans to hold on to the stake for five to seven years before offloading it, probably via a stock market offering.

Springer itself plans to buy 3.4m of the DB-owned shares (a 10% holding) for €183.6m. It will use the stock to help with acquisitions.

Company matriarch Friede Springer retains control of the publisher.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff