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Metro hopes to move beyond row with Media-Saturn founder

A cashier works at one of the top three cash and carry markets of Metro AG in Sankt Augustin near Bonn March 18, 2013. REUTERS/Wolfgang Ratt
A cashier works at one of the top three cash and carry markets of Metro AG in Sankt Augustin near Bonn March 18, 2013. REUTERS/Wolfgang Ratt

DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - German retailer Metro said it can push ahead with its strategy for Europe's biggest electronics chain Media-Saturn after a court ruling in a long-running dispute with the company's founder.

Media-Saturn's billionaire founder, Erich Kellerhals, owns a blocking minority of close to 22 percent and has regularly disagreed with Metro over its management of the chain, delaying the group's move into the fast-growing online market.

Metro said a Munich court on Wednesday confirmed an earlier ruling that upheld the right of a separate board set up by Metro to approve measures such as budget and acquisitions by a simple majority, allowing it to sidestep Kellerhals' veto.

"We now have legal and planning security and can continue to forge ahead with the major strategic repositioning of Media-Saturn," Chief Executive Olaf Koch said in a statement. "We are confident that we can maintain the growth path of Media-Saturn."

Europe's fourth-biggest retailer also runs cash and carries, hypermarkets and department stores, but is focusing investment on cash and carry and consumer electronics stores, which have better prospects given their size and international standing.

Disagreements with Kellerhals meant Media-Saturn was late to set up websites, but sales there are now growing fast, helped by its 2011 acquisition of online retailer Redcoon.

Media-Saturn, which competes with Dixons Retail and Darty Plc , saw sales rise 0.6 percent in the first nine months to 14.4 billion euros ($19.77 billion) or almost a third of the Metro group total, while online sales jumped 75 percent.

Kellerhals pulled out of a Media-Saturn joint venture in China last year, saying Metro should have expanded there more quickly and aggressively. Metro later scrapped the venture in China altogether, citing tough market competition. ($1 = 0.7283 euros)

(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi, Writing by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Alison Williams)

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