German media group Axel Springer considering AI acquisitions

BERLIN (Reuters) – German media giant Axel Springer will set up a dedicated mergers and acquisitions team to vet companies specializing in artificial intelligence, CEO Matthias Doepfner said in an internal employee podcast obtained by Reuters.

The M&A competence center “must focus entirely on acquisitions – early acquisitions or later acquisitions in AI businesses – which may be, for various reasons, important or attractive to Axel Springer,” Doepfner said.

“Maybe we make five picks and five times it doesn’t work,” Doepfner said of the potential takeovers. But the strategy could also reveal Axel Springer’s next StepStone, he added.

If the market environment improves, Axel Springer aims to go public with StepStone, a popular online job portal, this year.

Doepfner said he’s particularly interested in AI technology that seeks to disrupt Axel Springer’s business models in advertising, e-commerce and journalism.

Like StepStone, AI is a challenger to the company’s traditional press business, he said.

“If someone wants to kill journalism, okay, let’s understand how and why, and let us journalists do it ourselves.”

The company, whose German newspaper titles include the popular tabloid Bild, recently set its sights on the US market with the acquisition of the political newspaper Politico.

(Reporting by Klaus Lauer, Writing by Rachel More, Editing by Miranda Murray)

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