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German Cartel Office Voices Concern Over Asklepios Rhoen Stake

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Germany’s Federal Cartel Office said it’s concerned about hospital operator Asklepios Kliniken GmbH’s intention to raise its stake in rival Rhoen-Klinikum AG, whose shares climbed 1.6 percent.

Asklepios’s plan to increase its holding to as much as 10.1 percent would impose a blocking stake on Rhoen and endanger competition and patient choice, particularly around the central German city of Goslar, the agency said.

“Especially because there’s no price competition in this industry that’s heavily influenced by the state, there must be a measure of choice for patients,” Andreas Mundt, the president of the cartel office, said in an e-mailed statement.

The federal agency gave the companies affected an opportunity to respond to its concerns and said it will reach a decision in mid-January of next year.

Asklepios blocked an attempt by Fresenius SE earlier this year to buy Rhoen after announcing it had acquired a 5 percent stake. Two days later, Fresenius said the 3.1 billion-euro ($4.1 billion) bid had failed because only 84 percent of Rhoen shares had been tendered. Combining Fresenius’s Helios hospital unit with Rhoen would have cemented its position atop the German market, leaving Asklepios as the second-biggest operator.

Rhoen shares rose 24 cents to 15.60 euros after earlier rising as much as 3.8 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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