Carlyle completes Le Figaro sale

Carlyle Group has announced the first exit from its E1bn European buyout fund with the sale of its 40 per cent stake in Le Figaro.

Carlyle Group has reached an agreement with Socpresse to dispose of its 40 per cent stake in French daily Le Figaro. On completion of the deal, Socpresse will take 100 per cent control of the French newspaper.

Carlyle acquired 40 per cent of Le Figaro Group from Socpresse in July 1999 through a combination of shares and convertible bonds, which valued the stake at around E500m. This was Carlyle's second buyout investment in France and the firm's third buyout in Europe. 'The terms of Carlyle's exit have been very well received by our investors. They meet expectations set at the time of the acquisition,' according to Jean-Pierre Millet, a managing director at The Carlyle Group.

A spokesperson for the private equity firm confirmed that the investment had yielded a good return as well as providing Le Figaro with strong foundations for future development. “At the time of our original purchase, the owners of Le Figaro were keen to combine an injection of capital into the business with apolitical management advice. The past three years have seen a restructuring of the paper, both in terms of the balance sheet and the newspaper’s style. These changes have seen the paper increase its circulation and market share, bucking the trend in the French market.”

Socpresse is part Groupe Hersant, a holding company that is 70 per cent owned by the Hersant family and 30 per cent by Serge Dassault, who reportedly paid E340m for his stake in the company in February this year.

US-headquartered Carlyle Group has more than $12.5bn under management and has European offices in Barcelona, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan, Munich and Paris.  From these it manages a E1bn European buyout fund (from which the original investment in Le Figaro was made), a E730m European venture capital fund and operates a European real estate team.