"Mecom is poised to sell its German newspapers for €165 million (£148 million)... If the talks conclude as anticipated, an announcement could come as soon as today, reports The Times."
Well, yes, that would be the announcement everyone who's following the company closely has been waiting for all day. Update on the negotiations delaying the deal here (10 Jan, in German), on the final price here (12 Jan). Updates added 13 Jan 09:00 CET.
In the meantime, why not indulge in a bit of background for amusement: we can of course only speculate at this stage whether or not it is exactly the white knight Berliner Zeitung employees had in mind when they advertised for a new publisher to save them from Mecom last summer, but at least M. DuMont Schauberg (MDS), Germany's fourth largest newspaper publisher, the country's third largest if the deal goes through, is of the right nationality.
The strong synergies between MDS' Frankfurter Rundschau and Berliner Zeitung, the most prestigious of the assests MDS will acquire when it takes over Mecom's German division, might result in job losses and make the deal taste somewhat bitter-sweet to some of those being acquired, but under current circumstances, I think it's a good deal for all parties (I'll return with more on why, apart from the obvious benefits, later).
As the deal currently stands, no redundancies are on the table, but further down the road it might be an attractive opportunity for MDS to "consolidate" its operations into bigger, more cost-effective units.
A price tag of 165m Euro for Hamburger Morgenpost and Berliner Verlag would have come close to equalling what Mecom paid for the latter company three years ago, 152 Euro is even less. Still, in the current bear market, where it's hard to raise money and several market insiders were starting to wonder if Mecom's suitors had not decided to pull out and wait for David Montgomery's investment vehicle to go bankrupt so they could pick up the pieces for a bargain, it's not too bad and, with a few more new disposals, it should help buy Mecom the time it needs to get its house in order.
In an ironic twist, the current editor-in-chief of Frankfurter Rundschau is Uwe Vorkötter, who two years ago left the job as editor-in-chief of Berliner Zeitung in protest over Montgomery's and Mecom's cost saving measueres. According to a colleague on the scene, German newspapers, including Taz, speculate that Vorkötter will get a key role in the merged company.
Meanwhile, employee representatives in Mecom's Norway division, Edda Media, have said they're disappointed by the recent turn of events, as it makes it less likely that the British media group will sell it's Norwegian arm any time soon, and it is rumoured Mecom journalists in Germany are holding their breaths in case it should be decided in the last minute that Hamburger Morgenpost won't be part of the deal.