Mirror chiefs await offer from Germans

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The Independent Online
MIRROR GROUP executives are bracing themselves for a bid this week from Axel Springer Verlag, the German media company which owns Bild Zeitung, Germany's best-selling tabloid newspaper.

Speculation has surrounded the Mirror's future after Takeover Panel concerns forced Axel Springer to admit its interest 10 days ago.

The German media company has yet to make a formal offer for the group, whose interests include Live TV, the cable station, and a variety of regional newspapers as well as its Mirror titles. However, sources say Mirror Group executives believe a bid could come as early as this week.

Mirror shares have surged by 20 per cent over the last two weeks to close at 248.5p on Friday. It is thought group executives would be unwilling to accept any offer below 300p. Axel Springer, however, which has hired Andersons and Westdeutsche Landesbank as advisers, is believed unlikely to table an offer significantly above the current share price.

Axel Springer's interest has already forced one other potential bidder to show its hand - Trinity, the regional publishing group. Discussions between the two groups, which started several weeks ago, have been halted until the Axel Springer situation is clarified. No other bidders have yet emerged, but speculation has focused on the possible involvement of Candover, the venture capital group, and Newsquest, a regional newspaper group.

Strict rules on cross-media ownership would seem to rule out an offer by UK broadcasting groups, according to analysts. A bid from another UK national newspaper group would almost certainly be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and could well be blocked.

Kelvin MacKenzie, Mirror Group deputy chief executive and former Sun editor, is thought likely to be offered a central role if the Axel Springer deal goes ahead. The future of David Montgomery, chief executive, is less clear.

Monty's manoeuvres, Section Two