Vivendi Plans Bid for Lagardere to Create Media Giant
(Bloomberg) -- Vivendi is planning to make a bid for Lagardere SA 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, owner of assets including Paris Match magazine and Europe 1 radio, held by the activist investor for 24.10 euros apiece, according to a statement on Wednesday.
Lagardere rose as much as 22.6% to 23.90 euros on Thursday, while Vivendi shares were little changed.
The new deal would push Vivendi’s holding above 30% of Lagardere, triggering a requirement to bid 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 it’s approved, a spokesman said in an interview. Vivendi supports Chairman Arnaud Lagardere, he said.
If the 610 million-euro ($720 million) purchase is approved, Vivendi will hold 45% of Lagardere’s share capital and 36% of the voting rights, it said in the statement.
The deal is a “good outcome” for Lagardere shareholders and represents a floor price for the stock, Tom Singlehurst, an analyst at Citigroup Inc., said in a note. But for Vivendi investors, the transaction lacks compelling strategic logic and obtaining approvals from regulators for the combination of the book-publishing businesses could be “problematic,” he said.
Vivendi’s current offer for Amber’s stake would value Lagardere at 3.4 billion euros. Lagardere had a market value of 2.75 billion euros 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 shareholder meeting 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 support with battle 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, rival 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 SE in December, and building a 9.9% stake in Prisa, the owner of Spain’s national paper of record El Pais, after working with Joseph Oughourlian, the founder Amber Capital and the top Prisa shareholder.
Bollore has also long wanted to pick up pieces of Lagardere including its Hachette publishing house that has a strong presence in the U.S.
Vivendi has a significant war chest to keep on striking deals. It is spinning off Universal Music Group, valued at 35 billion euros, via a listing expected next week in Amsterdam.
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