Final three await Vivendi verdict

The French media group has indicated that an announcement on the winning bid for its publishing business is imminent.

Three private equity-backed consortia have submitted bids in the final round of bidding for Vivendi Universal’s publishing business. A final decision is  expected within the next 48 hours.

 

French private equity house Eurazeo is leading one of the groups, in conjunction with Carlyle and French bank Credit Agricole. Rival French buyout house PAI Management is leading a group which includes Apax Partners and Blackstone and four independent French publishing firms.

 

The most contentious of the three groups is a consortium led by major French publisher Lagardère and US private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings. French publishers have claimed that a winning offer from Lagardère, which owns the Hachette publishing house, would give it too dominant a position in the French market.

 

Vivendi Universal is hoping to reach a speedy decision on the publishing sale in order to focus on the recent offer from Vodafone for the firm’s interest in Cegetel, the French mobile phone operator. The completion of the deal will reduce Vivendi’s debt and enable the company to retain its stake in Cegetel.

 

The final bidders have tabled offers in the region of E2.5bn to E3bn, some way below Vivendi’s original E3bn to E3.5bn asking price. Vivendi had originally indicated that it would be willing to abandon the sale if offers were too low.