April 11, 2015 / 11:00 AM / in 3 years

France's Vivendi says will not bid for Lagardere

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

PARIS (Reuters) - French media group Vivendi (VIV.PA), with cash to spend after selling a chunk of its business, has no plans to bid for smaller rival Lagardere (LAGA.PA).

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.

Arnaud Lagardere, whose father created the one-time defense-to-media giant, would have to agree to any deal since the company’s structure has a built-in takeover protection.

Lagardere declined to comment.

Vivendi’s CEO Arnaud Puyfontaine told the Financial Times on Thursday that Vivendi was thinking about transformational transactions but was not interested in buying European pay-TV leader Sky (SKYB.L) or British broadcaster ITV (ITV.L).

In a more modest deal, Vivendi is on track to buy an 80 percent stake in video-sharing website Dailymotion from telecoms operator Orange (ORAN.PA) for 217 million euros.

Vivendi shares closed up 1 percent to 24.13 euros on Friday, giving the group a market capitalization of 32.3 billion euros.

Reporting by Leila Abboud and Sophie Sassard; Editing by Jane Merriman

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