In a surprise development, German publisher Heinrich Bauer has withdrawn from the bidding for the KirchMedia empire, leaving the way open for US media mogul Haim Saban and partner TF1.

However, Bauer spokesman Andreas Fritzenkoetter stressed that his company's "interest in a commitment in ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG and the rights trading remains unchanged", but they would "not participate in a kind of auction where the various bidders mutually push up the prices."

Fritzenkoetter argued that the consortium led by Bauer and Kirch creditor bank HypoVereinsbank had presented "a lasting, solid business model for the corporate future of the broadcasting family and the rights trading operations" and added that they would be "ready at any time to resume negotiations with the insolvency administration of KirchMedia should a new development in the proceedings arise."

However, in a reaction to Bauer's move, KirchMedia issued a statement saying "the offer of the rival bidder Saban is currently more attractive both materially and in terms of duration for the implementation."

Consequently, in the interest of the creditors, KirchMedia embarked on the final round of negotiations with Saban "to make the better offer contractually watertight", as managing director Hans-Joachim Ziems explained.

The sale, which had originally been expected to be completed by last September, is expected to raise around Euros 2bn and, unlike Bauer and HypoVereinsbank, Haim Saban and partner French TV group TFI are intending to take over the whole of the KirchMedia group.