The battle for control of Lagardère, parent company of Hachette Livre, seems to be turning in favor of another French company, Vivendi. The conglomerate, whose holdings include the book publisher Editis, has agreed to buy the 17.9% stake in Lagardère held by investor Amber Capital for about $720.6 million. Vivendi already holds a 26.7% stake in Lagardère; under French regulations, once a company's stake in another company exceeds the 30% level, it must make a tender offer for all remaining shares.
Amber had been pushing for Lagardère to make significant changes in its ownership structure, a move aimed at lessening Arnaud Lagardère's control over the company. Under an agreement reached this spring, Lagardère would become a more conventional stock-owned company, with Arnaud Lagardère retaining control of three board seats, Vivendi controlling three seats, and Amber one.
Following the announcement of Vivendi's deal with Amber, Lagardère issued a statement saying it was "delighted" by the news, arguing that the deal "demonstrates Vivendi's confidence in the relevance of Lagardère's strategic model based on the complementarity of its activities and its operational efficiency." In addition to Hachette Livre, whose units include the Hachette Book Group, Lagardère owns a large travel business that has been hard hit by the pandemic.
Analysts at J.P. Morgan Cazenove told Dow Jones they believe Vivendi is primarily interested in Lagardère's publishing business, "which would bring scale, synergies, and savings to Editis."
Any changes are still a ways away, since the deal is not expected to be completed until December 2022.