German publishing empires Axel Springer Verlag and Heinrich Bauer Verlag have set up a consortium to acquire at least 51% of insolvent KirchMedia when it emerges from restructuring.

This latest development comes just two days after the WAZ publishing group withdrew from the consortium including the Commerzbank and Sony's Columbia TriStar which was preparing a bid for KirchMedia.

The 50/50 alliance between Springer and Bauer indicated that agreement had been reached on accepting other partners into the consortium under their leadership, and that the consortium would be open to taking financial investors as well as other media companies onboard.

A week ago, Commerzbank board member Wolfgang Hartmann had included Bauer as a possible partner along with the Rewe retail group and the WCM investment group.

According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Commerzbank and Columbia TriStar may look for a replacement for WAZ, or change its consortium structure to just two partners.

A Sony spokeswoman Hiroko Saito was quoted by Reuters on Wednesday as saying that "we are still interested in such a deal and are currently analysing this". The company is undertaking due diligence and preparing a possible bid. She suggested that it was possible for other companies to join the bidder consortium.

Reuters reports that there are more than 80 German and international media companies and investors eyeing up the various remaining profitable units of KirchMedia.

Sony, however, remains the only publicly-committed foreign bidder in a race for assets ranging from Germany's leading commercial television station to the rights to the lucrative World Cup.

Other investors thought to be looking at acquisition options include: France's TF1, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset.