By Sudip Kar-Gupta
PARIS (Reuters) -Vivendi is in exclusive talks to sell its Editis publishing arm to a company of billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, the French media conglomerate said on Tuesday, in a deal that could ease regulatory approval for its Lagardere takeover.
Vivendi, controlled by French billionaire Vincent Bollore, is aiming to buy Hachette owner Lagardere. But the prospect of merging the world’s third-biggest publisher with Editis has triggered criticism from independent publishers and resulted in Editis losing some well-known authors.
European Union antitrust authorities have also sent Vivendi a formal statement of objections over the Lagardere takeover.
Vivendi, whose shares were down slightly in morning trade, said it was in talks with International Media Invest (IMI), a subsidiary of Czech Media Invest founded by Kretinsky, over the sale of Editis.
Vivendi also said its decision to embark on talks with Kretinsky meant it was dropping an earlier plan to spin-off Editis and float it on the Paris stock market.
Vivendi added the envisaged sale of Editis would need approval from the European Commission.
“The sale of Editis is part of Vivendi’s charm strategy with the European Commission to win authorisation to take over Lagardere,” said APICIL Asset Management fund manager Gregoire Laverne, whose firm owns Vivendi shares.
Laverne added a sale of Editis could be worth around 600-900 million euros ($642-$964 million).
Kretinsky has built up one of Europe’s biggest energy companies over the last decade.
In France, he has stakes in Le Monde newspaper, supermarket company Casino and TV group TF1.
($1 = 0.9340 euros)
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Mark Potter)