German media group Axel Springer eyes AI acquisitions

FILE PHOTO: The logo of German publisher Axel Springer is pictured in front of the company's headquarters in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) - German media giant Axel Springer will establish a dedicated mergers-and-acquisitions team to look at firms specialising in artificial intelligence, CEO Matthias Doepfner said in an internal podcast to employees obtained by Reuters.

The M&A competence centre "needs to entirely focus on acquisitions - early-stage acquisitions or later-stage acquisitions in AI companies - that can be, for various reasons, important or attractive for Axel Springer," Doepfner said.

"Perhaps we make five picks and five times it doesn't work," Doepfner said of potential takeovers. But the strategy could also turn up Axel Springer's next StepStone, he added.

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

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

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

"If somebody wants to kill journalism, OK, let us understand how and why, and let us journalists do it ourselves."

The company, whose German newspaper titles include mass-circulation tabloid Bild, recently set its sights on the U.S. market with the acquisition of political news outlet Politico.

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