Swiss group pulls out of bidding for French daily Le Monde

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Swiss media group Ringier said on Tuesday that it had pulled out of bidding for ailing French flagship newspaper group Le Monde because the deadline was too tight for an in-depth examination of its accounts.

"Ringier would readily have formulated a proposal that would have been acceptable to all parties, but only after detailed due diligence," the Swiss group said in a statement.

"But due to the particularly tight deadline imposed by Le Monde to come up with an offer, it had been neither possible to hold negotiations nor conduct an in depth analysis of its strengths and weaknesses."

"Ringier therefore gives up on making an offer."

Le Monde, like newspapers across the world, has in recent years suffered from falling advertising revenues and dwindling circulation due to the Internet, despite its own venture on the web.

It has 100 million euros (120 dollars) in debt.

Other outfits that have expressed interest are France's Nouvel Observateur group; Prisa, the owner of Spain's El Pais daily; and a trio of investors that includes Pierre Berge, the former partner of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Media reports said Italian media group L'Espresso, which owns la Repubblica newspaper was also interested.

Publisher Eric Fottorino said last week that a choice of a new majority shareholder or shareholders was expected by mid-June.

French media giant Lagardere has a 17 percent stake in Le Monde group but Fottorino said it was not seeking to increase its holding in the centre-left paper which has a circulation of around 320,000.

Ringier recently merged its east European operations with German giant Axel Springer to create one of the biggest print and digital media publishers in the region.

© 2010 AFP

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