German firm and Israeli partner make bid for Hollinger

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The Independent Online

The Daily Telegraph could fall into German hands after it emerged that the German media company Axel Springer had teamed up with the US-Israeli entrepreneur Haim Saban to bid for the newspaper's parent company.

It is thought that Axel Springer, which once tried to buy the Daily Mirror, is interested in UK assets of Hollinger, the US-listed media business that has put itself up for sale. In recent years, the Telegraph has pursued a strongly Eurosceptic editorial line.

Axel Springer's partner Haim Saban, industry sources believe, is primarily interested in the US and Israeli papers owned by Hollinger. Hollinger has invited bids for its individual papers or the whole company following a scandal that saw its chairman, Lord Black of Crossharbour, ousted last year. Axel Springer has submitted a joint bid with Mr Saban for the entire company.

In the UK, Hollinger owns The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator. In the US, the main asset is the Chicago Sun-Times and in Israel it has The Jerusalem Post.

It is thought the Hollinger board would prefer to sell to a single buyer, putting Axel Springer/Mr Saban in pole position, along with KKR, the giant US private equity group also believed to have made an offer for all of Hollinger.

Analysts believe that bids of $1.7bn (£920m) or more would prove attractive for the whole of Hollinger. It would mean others hoping to acquire the Telegraphwould be at a disadvantage or have to also find partners.

In Germany, Axel Springer publishes Bild, a right-wing tabloid, and the broadsheet Die Welt, and is turning its attention to western Europe.

The billionaire Mr Saban has interests in Germany, having bought the television broadcaster ProSieben last year. He made his fortune with the Power Rangers children's characters.

Selling Hollinger's individual assets would crystallise large tax liabilities, which is why the company's board favours a single transaction.