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UK firms to form third Vivendi consortium

Charterhouse Development Capital and CVC Capital Partners are hoping to enter the bidding for Vivendi Universal’s publishing business.

The race to acquire Vivendi Universal’s publishing operations looks set to admit a third entrant following reports that UK buyout firms Charterhouse Development Capital and CVC Capital Partners are interested in the business.

The two firms are reported to have approached a number of French private equity houses, thought to include CDC Ixis Private Equity, after sources close to Vivendi said the firm would prefer a French-led bid for the business.

The consortia currently in the bidding include US funds Thomas H. Lee, Blackstone Partners and British fund Apax Partners who have teamed up with the private equity division of BNP Paribas. They will be bidding against a group comprising The Carlyle Group and French house Eurazeo. Reuters reports that French media group Lagardère is also hoping to secure the support of a financial buyer.

As earlier reported Vivendi Universal is hoping to secure a price in the region of E4bn to E5bn for the business, which includes US education publisher Houghton Mifflin and Vivendi’s European book publishing business, which includes the Larousse brand of French dictionaries. The sale is part of Vivendi chief executive Jene-Rene Fourtou’s plans to raise E10bn through disposals over the next two years.

The two private equity consortia already in the running are believed to have made indicative offers for the business, with the Thomas H. Lee group reportedly offering $3.4bn. Formal offers are to be submitted to Vivendi by September 25.

An alliance between Charterhouse and CDC Ixis would be the second formed by the two firms this summer. The two were part of the winning consortium for the broadcasting assets of France Telecom in a E1.9bn transaction in late July.