Under pressure from the antitrust authorities in Brussels, the seemingly endless case of the sale of Editis – France’s number two publisher – made some progress on Monday 13 March. Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky, who has accelerated his investments in French media in recent years, has submitted an offer to Vivendi to acquire 100% of the capital of Editis (10/18, Julliard, Robert Laffont, Nathan …).
Vincent Bollloré’s group must, in fact, sell Editis to obtain the green light from Brussels in its takeover bid (OPA) for Lagardère, which would give it effective control of the Hachette Livre group – the world’s third largest editing.
Since the summer, Vivendi had hoped that the scheme it preferred to sell Editis would receive favor from Brussels. In a system of quotation-distribution, Vincent Bolloré would have sold in one block and at a better price his 29.6% stake to a reference shareholder – who had undertaken to rise later to 37%. Simultaneously, it would have put Editis on the EuronextGrowth market by allocating the remaining shares, in the form of a dividend, to Vivendi shareholders. But the European Commission, which has been pursuing its in-depth investigation into this case since November 2022, has challenged this arrangement..
In the grievances sent by Margrethe Vestager, the Competition Commissioner, to Vincent Bolloré’s group, the Commission fears “an alliance of minority shareholders” or even a “hostile takeover” on Editis. And she does not hide that “the listing-distribution scenario carries considerable risks of failure”. A similar observation had also been drawn up by the firm Secafi Alpha, mandated by the social and economic committee of Editis. For their authors, a quotation-distribution of Editis “does not present any major advantage for the company or its employees”.
Vivendi was therefore forced to modify its strategy urgently since Brussels is awaiting a response to the grievances that it expressed to it before March 20. Waiting so long to ultimately sell 100% of Editis will further damage the image of the “little prince of cash flow” that may have stuck with the Breton industrialist.
The French publishing market is shrinking
After a historic year in 2021, the French publishing market has withered (− 3% according to GFK). Editis announced an 8% drop in turnover in 2022, to 789 million euros, and its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (ebitda) stood at 31 million euros, against 51 million in 2021. But above all, Vivendi has depreciated this subsidiary by 300 million euros in its accounts. So Editis, which he paid 829 million euros in 2019, should not be sold for more than 529 million.
You have 31.27% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.