Constantin shareholder squeeze-out begins

Move likely to take company off the German stock market

COLOGNE, Germany -- Swiss media group Highlight Communications has begun a squeeze-out of minority shareholders in German indie film giant Constantin -- a move that will likely take Constantin off the German stock market.

On Tuesday, Highlight, which controls 97.8% of Constantin stock, sent a letter to Constantin requesting the squeeze-out. Under the move, Highlight would buy out minority shareholders at a "fair" price, usually equal to an average of the company's share price over the past three months.

The decision is expected to be passed at Constantin's next shareholder meeting, sometime early next year.

The move is part of a larger strategy by Highlight backer EM.SportMedia to merge Highlight and Constantin into a singular European media group. EM, itself listed on the German market, already has changed its name to Constantin Media.

Behind the whole operation is octogenarian mogul Leo Kirch, a major EM shareholder and likely to be the main player in the new merged company, which will have annual revenues of about $800 million.