It is Thursday April 14 that Vincent Bolloré, at the helm of the French group Vivendi, must launch the takeover bid (OPA) to take control of Lagardère.
Vivendi entered the capital of the owner of Europe 1, du Sunday newspaper (JDD) and of Paris Matchthen weakened by the Covid-19 crisis (particularly in its network of shops in train stations and airports) and threatened by a shareholder revolt.
Media heavyweight, owner of Canal+ but also of Editis and Havas, Vivendi was able to join forces with the activist fund Amber Capital to obtain the transformation of the impregnable Lagardère citadel into an ordinary public limited company and above all “operable”.
After leading the battle, Arnaud Lagardère, at the head of the industrial and media empire built by his father, Jean-Luc, who died in 2003, had to resolve to welcome “the Vivendi group and the Bolloré family, a guarantee of stability and support for our culture, our strategy and our integrity over the long term”he recently wrote to his shareholders.
The latter will be able, from April 14 to May 20, to sell their shares to Vivendi at 25.50 euros per share (including the dividend of 50 cents proposed by Lagardère for the 2021 financial year). This draft offer was validated on Tuesday by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), which declared it “compliant”.
Today owner of 45% of Lagardère shares, the group of Vincent Bolloré, which has a large cash after the sale of Universal, wishes at this price to become the majority. But he has also devised a subsidiary offer mechanism, which allows him to acquire any remaining shares at a price of 24.10 euros until December 15, 2023.
Arnaud Lagardère reinforced
Faced with heavy personal debt, Arnaud Lagardère, who has obtained the right to remain Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) until 2027, has, on the other hand, already announced his intention to contribute his 15.6 million shares (i.e. 11% of the capital) to the subsidiary offer and to immediately pledge the transfer rights obtained as collateral for new financing. The manager thus opens the way to a sale of his shares, without waiting for the completion of the operation, which remains suspended for the green light of the European competition authorities.
The merger between Hachette and Editis, the two leaders in publishing in France, would in fact lead to an ultra-dominant position of this new entity in the sector, which Vincent Bolloré himself had recognized before senators, declaring that the marriage “would not happen without measures being taken in France”in particular disposals of publishing houses.
In terms of the media, radio Europe 1 is already well anchored to the conservative news channel CNews, with which it shares a number of hosts. The official integration of the station will however have to obtain the approval of Arcom (ex-CSA).
As for the magazine Paris Match and weekly The JDDvery influential in the political world, they seem destined to be integrated by Vivendi into the press group Prisma Media, and have seen several leaders dismissed or retired in recent months.
Vivendi’s eagerness to integrate Lagardère can be explained by the will of Vincent Bolloré, who celebrated his 70th birthday on 1er April, to cede power to his children. A transition for which points remain to be settled but whose contours seem to be taking shape: the bank Oddo BHF thus expects that the next project of the Bolloré group – with deep pockets after the sale for nearly 6 billion euros of its African logistics activities – or to become a majority shareholder of Vivendi, of which it now owns 29.5%. In doing so, Vincent Bolloré would strongly secure his new media empire, before passing it on.