France's Vivendi says will not bid for Lagardere

Sat Apr 11, 2015 6:57am EDT
 
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PARIS (Reuters) - French media group Vivendi (VIV.PA: Quote), with cash to spend after selling a chunk of its business, has no plans to bid for smaller rival Lagardere (LAGA.PA: Quote).

Earlier this week, a source familiar with the matter had told Reuters Vivendi had made a bid worth 3.3 billion euros ($3.50 billion) for Lagardere in recent weeks. French magazine L'Express had also reported Vivendi's interest earlier in April.

"There has been no offer for Lagardere by Vivendi and there will not be one," Vivendi spokesman Simon Gillham said. "The Lagardere Group is a good friend of Vivendi and has been for a long time."

There is intense speculation about Vivendi's acquisition plans because the group is sitting on a roughly 15 billion euro cash pile after selling its French, Brazilian, and Moroccan telecom operators, as well as its video game arm.

French billionaire Vincent Bollore, Vivendi's chairman and leading shareholder, will have to decide the future direction of the 160-year-old holding company.

He has spent 2.84 billion euros in the past month to almost triple his Vivendi stake to 14.5 percent, tightening his grip on the company, while also fending off a challenge from a U.S. activist hedge fund that has been demanding higher dividends.

Bollore may give some hints about the group's plans at an annual meeting of shareholders on April 17.

Vivendi has remained vague about its ambitions, saying only that it wants to build itself into a stronger media company by developing its Universal Music Group and pay-TV operator Canal Plus, and by making acquisitions.

A deal with Lagardere would give Vivendi book publishing arm Hachette, as well as radio stations including Europe 1 and magazines like Paris Match. But the travel retail arm and sports units are less of a good fit for Vivendi, analysts have said.   Continued...

 
A woman walks walk past the main entrance of the entertainment-to-telecoms conglomerate Vivendi's headquarters in Paris April 8, 2015.REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes