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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
The end of Die Welt nigh?
Die Welt
Die Welt merged last year with Berliner Morgenpost
The publisher of one of Germany's biggest national newspapers, Die Welt, has threatened to close it if two other papers are allowed to merge.

The Axel Springer company says efforts to stabilise losses from the conservative daily would be completely undermined if a merger between the Berliner Zeitung and Tagesspiegel goes ahead.

The merger, announced last June, was halted by German competition regulators.

But Tagesspiegel's publisher, Holtzbrinck, which wants to buy the Berliner Zeitung, has appealed to the government for special dispensation - threatening to close Tagesspiegel if it is turned down.

A decision is due next month.

Cost savings

The threat to close Die Welt comes during the deepest crisis in the post-war history of the German media.

Advertising revenues have fallen sharply, and circulation has also been dropping off.

Sales of Axel Springer's tabloid, Bild - Germany's best-selling newspaper - have slipped below the psychologically important four-million mark.

Last year Springer merged Die Welt with the Berlin regional Berliner Morgenpost, in an effort to save money.

One editorial team now produces two newspapers each day, though much of the content is the same.

Results stabilised

Mathias Doepfner, chief executive of Axel Springer
Mathias Doepfner: Room for only two national dailies
The threat to close Die Welt was contained in a letter to Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement from Springer's chief executive Mathias Doepfner.

He said the slide in the results of the two papers - Die Welt and Berliner Morgenpost - had been "stabilised at a certain level".

The weekly Der Spiegel, which first revealed the existence of Mr Doepfner's letter, reported that sales of Die Welt were down 10% in the first three months of 2003 compared with the same period in 2002.

Mr Doepfner has been quoted as saying that there is ultimately only room for two national daily newspapers in Germany.

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