Axel Springer expresses interest in buying UK’s Telegraph group

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Germany’s Axel Springer has expressed interest in buying the Telegraph Media Group, becoming the latest in a series of international investors to line up to bid for the UK publisher.

The Berlin-based media company has “registered interest” with bankers managing the sale of the parent company of The Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator magazine, according to a person familiar with its plans.

Axel Springer, which owns Die Welt and Bild newspapers, is keen to expand beyond the German-speaking media world under the leadership of Mathias Döpfner. It came close to buying the Financial Times in 2015 and bought Politico, the political news website, in 2021.

Axel Springer declined to comment on the news, which was first reported by Sky News.

The Telegraph Group was bought for £665mn in 2004 by the Barclay family. But they lost control over their media empire in June when Lloyds Banking Group seized it. The Barclays owe the bank more than £1bn.

Other potential bidders that have expressed an interest include DMGT, the company behind the Daily Mail, which has been lining up external financial partners for its bid. Former Telegraph editor Sir William Lewis is interested, as is Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský.

News UK, the Murdoch-owned newspaper group, is keen to make a bid, too. People close to News UK said Rupert Murdoch would be particularly enthusiastic about The Spectator magazine.

The Barclay family is trying to buy back the company and have turned to investors in the Middle East for help to regain control.

The group could fetch more than £500mn in an auction according to some estimates. The person familiar with Axel Springer’s plans said that seemed “way too expensive for a legacy print business”.

Howard Barclay, a former joint owner of the Telegraph, told a court in July that prospective buyers of the media group viewed it as a “distressed asset”, adding that it “not going to be an easy asset to sell”.

The sale process is likely to face scrutiny by regulators on competition grounds.

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