Directories marketing iStock_000037534844SmallAxel Springer buys 15 pct stake in Digital Classifieds and obtains option to buy remaining 15 %.  The move is part of increasing shift to digital media.

German publisher Axel Springer is spending 446 million euros ($548 million) in cash to lift its stake in a digital classified advertising joint venture to 85 from 70 percent as part of its efforts to shift from print to digital media.

Springer, publisher of Germany’s best-selling daily Bild, was among the first German companies to make inroads into digital media and has bought several online firms in recent years.  It would also have the option to purchase the remaining 15 percent of Axel Springer Digital Classifieds from joint venture partner General Atlantic, either in exchange for new shares to be issued in a capital increase or for another 446 million euros.

Springer said if it did not exercise the option, private equity firm General Atlantic would be allowed to sell its remaining stake from Jan. 1, 2018 or to demand a public listing of the unit from Jan. 1, 2020.  Springer was considering a flotation of the Digital Classifieds business. sources had told Reuters earlier this year.

Digital Classifieds posted a 21 percent gain in revenues to 357.1 million euros in the first nine months of 2014, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation jumped 35 percent to 160.2 million, according to Springer.

About: Axel Springer Digital Classifieds is a portfolio of leading online classifieds businesses across Europe. In April 2012, GA (General Atlantic) invested in a joint venture with Axel Springer to create Axel Springer Digital Classifieds. The new company is comprised of SeLoger, the leading online real estate classifieds business in France, StepStone, a leading online jobs classifieds business across Europe, and Immonet, an online real estate classifieds business in Germany, among others.

GA is developing the consolidated company into a leading international classifieds business both organically and through acquisitions. In April 2012, StepStone acquired TotalJobs Group, the largest online recruitment business in the U.K. In September 2012, Axel Springer Digital Classifieds acquired MeineStadt, a regional portal in Germany. In November 2012, Axel Springer Digital Classifieds acquired ImmoWeb, the leading online real estate classifieds business in Belgium. GA will continue to help Axel Springer Digital Classifieds with corporate development, strategic M&A, expansion of mobile and social product offerings, pricing strategies and IT integration.