PARIS (Reuters) -Vivendi will buy activist fund Amber’s stake in Paris Match owner Lagardere “in the coming days,” it said on Thursday, accelerating a deal that would extend its influence over French media ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Vivendi announced in September its plan to acquire Amber’s almost 18% stake in Lagardere for 24.10 euros per share and then file a full takeover offer at the same price.
Back then, it said it expected to complete the stake purchase by Dec. 15, pending the required regulatory clearance, but on Thursday it said it would speed up the transaction.
“Recent analyses carried out by Vivendi have led the company to consider that this acquisition could take place now,” it said in a statement.
It added that to comply with merger regulations, it would not exercise the voting rights deriving from the Amber stake acquisition or the tender offer on minority shareholders until the necessary regulatory approvals had been obtained.
“As a result, the Vivendi Management Board has decided to authorize the immediate acquisition of the Lagardere shares owned by Amber Capital,” the group said.
The deal will lift Vivendi’s Lagardere stake to 45.1%, with the tender offer for the remaining shares to be filed by February 2022.
The acquisition means Vivendi, which already owns pay TV group Canal+ and right-leaning news channel CNEWS, will gain control over Lagardere’s flagship magazine Paris Match, weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche and radio station Europe 1.
The media ambitions of Vivendi’s billionaire top shareholder Vincent Bollore have ruffled feathers in President Emmanuel Macron’s inner circle, sources have said, with some fearing his empire building could result in airwaves dominated by right-wing views ahead of the April 2022 presidential election.
One of the candidates, far-right commentator Eric Zemmour, used to have a paid position on CNEWS and he frequently appeared on air. He is no longer on the channel.
Vivendi has declined to comment on media reports that Bollore was backing Zemmour in the presidential race, with a source saying neither the company nor its largest shareholder had ever expressed their support for Zemmour.
(Additional reporting by Gwenaelle BarzicWriting by Silvia AloisiEditing by David Goodman and Mark Potter)