Dassault to take over French media group

12th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 12 (AFP) - Dassault, France's legendary aviation family, is to make a bid for a French media empire that would give it control of 70 publications, including the influential conservative daily Le Figaro.

PARIS, March 12 (AFP) - Dassault, France's legendary aviation family, is to make a bid for a French media empire that would give it control of 70 publications, including the influential conservative daily Le Figaro.

The family holding company belonging to 78-year-old Serge Dassault has said it plans to boost its stake in Le Figaro publisher Socpresse from 30 to 80 percent.

The company, Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault (GIMD), said it had reached an agreement with most of the heirs of publishing magnate Robert Hersant under which it would acquire their shares in Socpresse.

One industry observer described the move as "a major event in French publishing," while another noted that Serge Dassault had at last managed to "realize the dream that had eluded his father Marcel."

Serge Dassault, a former fighter pilot whose company Dassault Aviation turns out the French combat aircraft Mirage and Rafale, had tried in vain to buy into Le Figaro in 1999 and to acquire another Socpresse publication, the news magazine L'Express, in 1997.

Since then, according to one industry analyst, he has "never concealed his desire to increase his stake in Socpresse".

The value of the latest offer was not disclosed.

A source close to the affair said that if the takeover were successful, Dassault would hold 82 percent of Socpresse, with 13 percent in the hands of Hersant heir Aude Hersant and five percent controlled by the head of Socpresse, Yves de Chaisemartin.

The transaction must now be approved by shareholders and authorised by European Union competition authorities, a procedure that according to Dassault could take eight to 10 weeks.

Dassault's colleagues acknowledge that the deal will not go through without the backing of Chaisemartin.

Informing Le Figaro's editorial committee of the takeover bid on Thursday, Chaisemartin stressed that he would be "the guarantor" of the newspaper's independence.

One Figaro staffer described the atmosphere at the paper as "calm but mobilised."

Interviewed in 1999, Serge Dassault told the French cable channel LCI: "It is important for me to be the owner of a newspaper to express my opinion but also to respond to those journalists that write anything they want."

Jouranlists' unions at Le Figaro have vowed to closely monitor the deal.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

 

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