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The logo of French media group Lagardere. Picture: BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS
The logo of French media group Lagardere. Picture: BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

Vivendi is planning a bid for Lagardere if regulators approve its plan to buy out Amber Capital’s stake, a deal that would create one of Europe’s biggest media companies.

Vivendi agreed to buy 25.3-million shares of Lagardere — the owner of assets including Paris Match magazine and Europe 1 radio — held by the activist investor for €24.10 apiece, according to a statement on Wednesday. 

Lagardere rose as much as 22.6% to €23.90 on Thursday, while Vivendi shares were little changed.

The Amber Capital deal would push Vivendi’s holding of Lagardere above 30%, triggering an offer for the rest of the business under French law. While Vivendi anticipates that regulators would want to see some remedies from the combination of the two media companies, it plans to go ahead with the offer once the Amber Capital plan is approved, a spokesperson said Vivendi supports Chair Arnaud Lagardere, he said.

If the €610m purchase is approved, Vivendi will hold 45% of Lagardere’s share capital and 36% of the voting rights, it said in Wednesday’s statement. 

Vivendi’s offer for Amber’s stake values Lagardere at €3.4bn. Lagardere had a market value of €2.75bn at close of trading in Paris on Wednesday. The shares have declined 4.8% this year.  

Vivendi and Amber Capital, Lagardere’s two largest shareholders, have been battling to gain more control over the French retail, media and publishing group and push through structural changes. After initially losing a court battle to force Lagardere to hold a special meeting of shareholders last year, the two investors succeeded in getting their nominees on the board.  

The fight for control over Lagardere has also been viewed in France as a battle between rival billionaires. Earlier this month, luxury goods titan Bernard Arnault’s investment firm said it was terminating its shareholder agreement with Arnaud Lagardere’s holding company, swapping its entire stake in Lagardere Capital for Lagardere SA shares.

This effectively robbed Lagardere of Arnault’s support in its battle with Vincent Bollore, the largest shareholder in Vivendi, and Amber Capital.

Bollore had previously clashed with Amber Capital over Vivendi’s investment in Lagardere, in which Amber is the second-biggest shareholder. The two then joined forces when Arnault began building his own stake in the company.

Lagardere said in a statement it is “delighted” with Vivendí’s plans to buy Amber’s stake and that the company’s board would give its opinion on a potential takeover offer at the appropriate time. “It confirms the respect of the integrity of the Lagardere group and the support given to its management,” Lagardere said.

Vivendi has been growing its extensive media business, securing the French publishing assets held by Germany’s Bertelsmann in December, and building a 9.9% stake in Prisa, the owner of Spain’s national paper of record El País, after working with Joseph Oughourlian, the founder Amber Capital and Prisa’s main shareholder.

Bollore has also long wanted to pick up pieces of Lagardere, including its Hachette publishing house that has a strong presence in the US. 

Vivendi has a significant war chest to keep on striking deals. It is spinning off Universal Music Group, valued at €35bn via a listing expected next week in Amsterdam. 

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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