Vivendi opts for publishing split

The media group has reached agreement with the Lagardère-Ripplewood Holdings consortium over the sale of non-US publishing assets.

In a move that brings to an end the auction process to acquire outright the company’s publishing interests, Vivendi Universal has reached agreement with one of the bidding consortia over the sale of its non-US publishing operations.

The assets, which comprise Vivendi Publishing’s operations in Europe and Latin America, have been sold to the consortium comprising French publishing house Lagardère and US private equity fund Ripplewood Holdings.

The Lagardère consortium was considered to be the most controversial of the three remaining bidders as it was likely to bring up competition issues in the French publishing sector. In a statement issued this morning, Vivendi confirmed that the E1.25bn sale would be subject to approval from the anti-trust authorities.

In selling only the non-US operations, Vivendi has re-opened the auction for Houghton Miffin, the company’s US publishing business which it acquired last year for just over E2bn, to new bidders. The auction will commence next week, subject to a ‘significantly higher’ offer from one of the present bidders being made by one of the current bidders before Friday. The two remaining consortia comprise PAI Management, Apax Partners and Blackstone, and Eurazeo, Carlyle and Credit Agricole.

Vivendi Universal has opted for a split in the assets in order to boost the price for its publishing operations. VU had originally sought bids in excess of E3bn for the businesses. Final bids fell some way short, reaching only E2.7bn. Vivendi is thought to favour a quick sale in an attempt to launch a bid to acquire mobile telephone operator Cegetel, currently the subject of a E6.9bn takeover bid from UK operator Vodafone.