File picture: Lee Jae-Won

Berlin - Axel Springer SE, the German publisher leading a campaign to curb Google’s influence in Europe, acquired a 20-percent stake in Qwant, a Paris-based search engine that focuses on data privacy.

Axel Springer made the purchase through its Digital Ventures unit, the Berlin-based company said in a statement today. Financial details weren’t disclosed. Qwant, co-founded three years ago by a computer engineer and a former hedge-fund manager, said in May it was seeking to raise about 5 million euros.

Axel Springer, which publishes Germany’s largest newspaper Bild, has introduced paid online content and acquired internet assets to offset a decline in print revenue. Chief Executive Officer Mathias Doepfner wrote in a newspaper editorial in April that Google’s search algorithm determines the fate of the online advertising market, leading to some German politicians to call for a breakup of the US company.

The European Union’s top court last month ruled citizens have a “right to be forgotten” online, meaning individuals can ask search-engine owners to remove personal information and request that a court step in if the company doesn’t comply.

Axel Springer shares jumped 0.5 percent to 46.63 euros at 9.28am in Frankfurt, giving Europe’s biggest newspaper publisher a market value of 4.6 billion euros. Bloomberg News reported the acquisition on Wednesday.

As consumers become more concerned with preserving their privacy online, Qwant and other upstart search engines like Ixquick, StartPage and DuckDuckGo are trying to grab audience from Google and Microsoft by offering features they say are more respectful of privacy. Qwant boasts a no- tracking, no-ads policy.

Co-founders Jean Manuel Rozan and Eric Leandri said in an interview in May that Qwant is profitable, forecasting full-year sales of more than 3.5 million euros, compared with 1.5 million euros in 2013.

Qwant gets as many as 10 million searches per day and predicts it will handle more than 1.2 billion this year. Google, by contrast, saw 111 billion searches in March alone, while Baidu, the No. 2 site, had 31 billion, according to ComScore data.

Over the past year, Axel Springer and its ventures acquired control of companies including Runtastic GmbH, a maker of a run- tracking application, news broadcaster N24 Media GmbH, UK job-search portal Jobsite and Israel’s largest classifieds portal Yad2. - Bloomberg