Axel Springer SE would have "loved" to buy the Financial Times, but the $1.3 billion (¥161.7 billion) Nikkei Inc. paid for the salmon-hued paper was too much for the German media group, according to Chief Executive Officer Mathias Doepfner.

"It would have fit very well, but at the end it was too expensive and therefore we decided to be disciplined and not to do it," Doepfner said on a conference call with analysts on Tuesday.

Japan's biggest financial news publisher last month surprised the media world by buying Pearson PLC's FT at a premium to recent newspaper deals. Nikkei and Springer's competition came so close to the wire that the FT's own home page was still reporting the German group as the leading bidder after Nikkei had announced its deal.

Doepfner said Axel Springer will continue to push digitalization on its own with small and mid-sized acquisitions. A deal with ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE is off the table, after ProSieben said last week it wasn't "planning or contemplating a merger" with Springer. While helping the companies to combine their push into digital media, a merger would have faced complications over who controls the entity and antitrust scrutiny.

Axel Springer's second-quarter revenue rose 7 percent to €796.7 million (¥107.7 trillion) and digital media made up 62 percent of the total, compared with 54 percent a year earlier, the publisher of best-selling tabloid Bild said on Tuesday.

Sales at the company's classified unit advanced 55 percent to €179.2 million. DZ Bank AG analyst Harald Heider said he expects further strong growth in that business and reiterated his buy rating on Axel Springer's stock.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization declined 0.6 percent to €147 million.