B. Braun Seeks Cartel Approval for 25% Stake in Rhoen-Klinikum

B. Braun Holding GmbH sought regulatory approval to increase its stake in Rhoen-Klinikum AG (RHK) to 25 percent to gain more control over the German hospital operator, which was the target of a takeover battle last year.

The German cartel office, which announced B. Braun’s Aug. 30 application on its website today, has a month either to make a decision or open a three-month in-depth probe of the case. B. Braun, a hospital supplier, said it’s committed to securing its minority shareholding in Rhoen-Klinikum. Spokeswoman Bernadette Tillmanns-Estorf declined to comment further.

The move adds to more than a year of drama over the future of Rhoen-Klinikum. B. Braun sued in July to challenge a shareholder vote to lower the bar for shareholder approval of mergers and other major decisions. B. Braun’s decision to seek a bigger stake shows it doesn’t believe its suit will be successful, Rhoen-Klinikum Chairman Eugen Muench said today.

“In our view only that can explain why B. Braun wants to boost its stake as a precautionary measure,” Muench said in an e-mailed statement.

A bigger stake would let B. Braun, which already owns about 5 percent of Rhoen-Klinikum, block some corporate decisions.

Rhoen-Klinikum shares rose as much as 3.2 percent, the most since Aug. 1. The shares were up 3 percent at 18.21 euros at 1:36 p.m. in Frankfurt.

June Vote

Rhoen-Klinikum’s shareholders in June abolished a requirement that major decisions receive the backing of investors holding at least 90 percent of the voting rights. Votes from B. Braun opposing the change weren’t accepted because the medical-supply company’s representative wasn’t “duly legitimated,” Muench said at the time.

The approval requirement played a role in derailing a takeover last year of Rhoen-Klinikum by Fresenius SE (FRE), another hospital operator. Rival hospital operator Asklepios Kliniken GmbH bought a stake to block the deal, which would have eclipsed Asklepios to create the biggest German hospital network.

Asklepios, based in Hamburg, and Fresenius, which is headquartered in the Frankfurt suburb of Bad Homburg, each own at least 5 percent of Rhoen-Klinikum, based in Bad Neustadt an der Saale, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Muench and his family own the biggest stake at 12.5 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Naomi Kresge in Berlin at nkresge@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net

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