Two bids for stake in France's ailing Le Monde paper

11th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Two investors on Friday made formal offers to acquire a majority stake in France's Le Monde, said the ailing newspaper which needs new capital to pay off its 100-million-euro (120-million-dollar) debt.

The first bid is by a consortium of left-wing investors: Pierre Berge, the former partner of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, investment banker Matthieu Pigasse and telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel.

The second was made by the SFA PAR group headed by Claude Perdriel, which owns France's Nouvel Observateur, in partnership with several unnamed investors, Le Monde said in a statement.

Le Monde's supervisory board will meet on Monday to set a final deadline for offers to be submitted, the paper said. An initial deadline was set for Friday but was pushed back at the request of several shareholders.

Two potential bidders pulled out earlier this week: Italian publisher L'Espresso and Ringier, the publisher of Switzerland's Le Temps, but Spain's Prisa, which publishes El Pais newspaper, was still in the running.

Le Monde was founded in 1944 by Hubert Beuve-Mery after the end of the German occupation of Paris.

Falling advertising revenues, dwindling circulation, the challenge of the Internet and the economic downturn have left Le Monde, like many of the world's newspapers, struggling to survive.

A member of Le Monde's editorial staff said Friday that President Nicolas Sarkozy had told the paper's publisher that he opposed the bid by Berge, Niel and Pigasse.

The Paris newspaper Liberation reported that Sarkozy had told publisher Eric Fottorino that there would be no state-backed loans for upgrading Le Monde's printing plant if the trio's offer was accepted.

Today around 280 journalists work for the daily, which has a circulation of about 290,000.

© 2010 AFP

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