Media duo lead field in race for Hollinger

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The Barclay brothers and the German media group Axel Springer have taken the lead in the auction of Daily Telegraph owner Hollinger International, which moves into its final phase this week.

They are preparing to submit higher offers than the four other bidders. These are UK private equity group 3i; Apax and Candover; the legendary US buyout firm KKR; and Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT).

Lazard, the investment bank handling the sale, will whittle the list of six suitors down to two or three in a week's time, after consulting with the Hollinger board over this Thursday's bids.

But last week it told bidders that, if they made a "blockbuster bid", a deal could be announced as early as this week.

It is thought an offer of around £1bn for the Telegraph Group - owner of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, and the Spectator magazine - would be enough to bring bidding to an early close. More likely is that a deal will be concluded next month, after Lazard releases the final financial information on the group to the shortlisted bidders.

The Barclay brothers, who own the Ritz hotel and the Scotsman newspaper, are bidding just for the Telegraph Group. Axel Springer and KKR are preparing bids for the whole of Hollinger International.

DMGT has suffered a setback after its partner, UK private equity group Cinven, dropped out earlier this month.