Springer eyes UK market

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The Independent Online
AXEL SPRINGER, the German newspaper publisher which is lining up a bid for Mirror Group, said yesterday that the UK was the most attractive newspaper market in the world.

"The British newspaper market is the best in Europe, if not in the world," Springer's chief executive, Gus Fischer, said. "I do not want to be the last to go there."

Meanwhile, the group confirmed that it has the financial muscle to launch a bid for Mirror Group by reporting that it was debt-free. Revealing its results for 1997, Springer pointed out that it had liquid assets of DM686m (pounds 237m), while its long-term debt stands at DM246m. Cash flow also improved last year.

Mr Fischer said it was essential for Springer's newspaper and magazine business to become more international. The group, which publishes the daily newspapers Die Welt and Bild plus a host of regional newspapers and consumer magazines, currently generates just 13 per cent of its turnover from outside Germany. Two weeks ago Springer stated it was considering a bid for Mirror Group, but has yet to table a firm offer. Mirror's shares slipped 0.5p to 232.5p to yesterday.

The group said revenues for the first five months of the year were "satisfactory". However, it warned that earnings could be affected by "investments in new titles and equity holdings, as well as restructuring measures."

In 1997, increased sales revenues, lower start-up costs for new titles and the sale of its stake in TV station DSF helped Springer's profits rise by 29 per cent to DM211m.