France Soir to re-launch with English edition

18th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 19 (AFP) - One of France's best-known daily newspapers, France Soir, is to be re-launched with an English-language edition aimed at expatriates and businessmen after its purchase Tuesday by Egyptian millionaire Rami Lakah.

PARIS, Oct 19 (AFP) - One of France's best-known daily newspapers, France Soir, is to be re-launched with an English-language edition aimed at expatriates and businessmen after its purchase Tuesday by Egyptian millionaire Rami Lakah.

The paper - which once sold more than a million copies a day - has been in dire financial difficulties, costing its former owners, the Italian group Poligrafici Editoriale, some EUR 500,000 (USD 625,000) every month.

Lakah, a 41-year-old businessman with dual French and Egyptian citizenship, was reported to have spent EUR 4.5 million to take over 70 percent of the newspaper's mother company Presse Alliance.

A statement Tuesday from Presse Alliance said that Lakah's company, Montaigne Press, "this afternoon took control of Presse Alliance after the capital increase set out in the general assembly of October 19."

Insiders have confirmed press reports that Lakah plans to set up a France Soir International, which will be published in English six times a week from next month and distributed initially in Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and the Mediterranean Riviera.

"The project is sewn up - it's ready to go," a France Soir staff member told AFP Monday.

Lakah is already the owner of Lafayette press, which has concluded a deal to publish a French version of the American magazine Newsweek, although so far only one test edition has been published.

Founded almost exactly 60 years ago shortly after the liberation of Paris, France Soir enjoyed its heyday in the 1960s when its combination of show business and crime stories won it a mass audience. Today it has dwindled to fewer than 70,000 copies sold every day.

The paper's 100 staff - including 60 journalists - voted in favour of the takeover, but many are fearful that the international edition will come to eclipse the French title. "France Soir national must not be the poor relation of this operation," one journalist said.

The English-language edition is expected to consist of 12 pages assembled by a team of six English-speaking journalists and sell for EUR 1.50. Lakah hopes to be selling some 75,000 copies by next year, insiders said.

The entire French national newspaper industry is going through its deepest crisis since World War II, thanks to a collapsing readership, plummetting advertising revenue and mounting competition from free papers and the Internet.

Recently the country's most prestigious daily Le Monde announced plans to shed 90 staff - including 30 journalists - after non-subscription sales fell by 10.5 percent in the year to August.

France-Soir's new owner is a colourful businessman and former member of parliament who left Egypt with huge debts and a trail of controversy. His Lakah Group expanded into tourism and energy in Egypt's economic boom, but in 2001 the share price crashed 99 percent, almost sinking the Cairo stock exchange.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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