European Union gives F1 the go-ahead

THE European Commission's Competition Directorate has announced that its investigation into Formula 1 is complete and the changes made mean that the sport has been cleared of all questions. The move will follow many months of renegotiating and restructuring of the way in which the relationship between the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone's SLEC operates. The clearance, which has been expected for some time, is not actually definitive as there is another month during which further objections can be raised. If there are none Formula 1 will finally be free of the problem - for the first time in five years.

However there is still another competition issue which is blocking progress at the moment. The German competition authorities are refusing to clear the Kirch acquisition of the Formula 1 group of companies because of a dispute over money.

Kirch began buying into F1 when it came to the rescue of EM.TV last winter when Thomas Haffa's company ran into trouble. As part of the agreement with the German regulatory authorities Kirch agreed that he would sell off the 45% shareholding EM.TV has in TeleMunchen to avoid a monopoly situation.

TeleMunchen boss Herbert Kloiber has the first option to buy the shares and is willing to pay $175m for the stake. But Kirch wants more and reckons that Kloiber should pay something in the region of $350m.

EM.TV paid $348m for the shares in September 1999.

Kloiber has filed a suit against Kirch with the German competition authority, arguing that the F1 deal cannot go ahead until the EM.TV rescue bid is given full regulatory clearance.

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