Bertelsmann's global Internet bookselling venture, BooksOnLine, became operational in France and neighboring French-speaking territories on February 4, with a heretofore unannounced (but not unexpected) 50-50 partner, Havas -- number one in books and multimedia in France. Havas and Bertelsmann are already partners in France's leading book club, France Loisirs; more recently, the two groups jointly acquired Spanish medical publisher Doyma, and they continue to pursue apparently arduous negotiations in a joint venture in professional publishing.

Commenting on the new alliance, Bertelsmann's multimedia publishing group CEO, Klaus Eierhoff (who replaced Thomas Middelhoff when the latter moved up to become Bertelsmann's president and CEO), made it clear that BOL France expects to be the market leader in online bookselling in the French language. On the French side, Havas will be responsible for logistical operations of the new company, under new publishing chief Agnès Touraine, who until now ran Havas's multimedia sector.