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    MMB   FR0000130213

LAGARDÈRE S.A.

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France's Lagardere sees off activist Amber in shareholder showdown

05/05/2020 | 12:32pm EDT
The logo of French media group Lagardere is seen at the group's shareholders meeting in Paris

By Sarah White and Gwénaëlle Barzic

French publishing and media group Lagardere on Tuesday fended off Amber Capital's most daring attempt yet to shake up governance at the company, after shareholders rejected the activist investor's call to replace the supervisory board.

Lagardere, locked in a stand-off with Amber over the past four years, had beefed up its defences with the arrival of new allies and investors, including French media magnate Vincent Bollore and his Vivendi group.

At a meeting held virtually due to the coronavirus crisis, shareholders voted against Amber proposals to oust seven members of the board and replace them with candidates which it argued would be more independent.

"This is a clear-cut vote in favour of management," said Lagardere's Chief Executive Arnaud Lagardere, at the helm since 2003, since taking over from his late father.

Lagardere shares closed down 5.9%.

Amber - which is not the first activist fund to try to shake up Lagardere, a conglomerate long under fire for its sprawling business mix and for underperforming on the stock market - had gone all out in its campaign.

It raised its stake to 18% in recent weeks, making it Lagardere's top shareholder ahead of the Qatari Investment Authority.

"We will be present for all the debates to come," Amber founder Joseph Oughourlian said in a statement following the vote, adding that other shareholders also wanted changes. Some of its proposals were backed by 40% of investors.

Amber's salvo comes as activist investors, traditionally reluctant to take aim at French businesses, which often have family or state backing, try to up the ante in France, though with little success so far.

In March, U.S. fund Elliott ended its resistance to software company CapGemini's $4.1 billion takeover of smaller rival Altran, after struggling to extract a higher offer price.

Amber had said it would agree to some of Lagardere's proposals, including ratifying the appointment of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy - seen as a Lagardere ally - to the supervisory board.

But only one vote went against Lagardere, which wanted to renew a board mandate for Martine Chene, a former employee and union representative.

Lagardere still has challenges ahead, however - and Bollore to contend with. Vivendi, also present in media and publishing, is now Lagardere's third biggest investor, leading to speculation over its intentions.

Lagardere, which owns Hachette, the publisher of Asterix comic books, also faces further pain from the coronavirus crisis, especially in its travel retail business. It expected revenue there to have fallen some 90% in April.

(Reporting by Sarah White and Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by Mark Potter and David Evans)


© Reuters 2020
Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
AT HOME GROUP INC. -0.08% 36.99 End-of-day quote.0.00%
LAGARDÈRE S.A. 1.61% 22.72 Real-time Quote.9.18%
MEMBERS CO., LTD. 3.63% 3430 End-of-day quote.47.91%
VIVENDI SE -0.69% 31.53 Real-time Quote.20.36%
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Analyst Recommendations on LAGARDÈRE S.A.
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Financials
Sales 2021 4 960 M 5 816 M 5 816 M
Net income 2021 -177 M -208 M -208 M
Net Debt 2021 1 723 M 2 020 M 2 020 M
P/E ratio 2021 -17,4x
Yield 2021 -
Capitalization 3 181 M 3 733 M 3 730 M
EV / Sales 2021 0,99x
EV / Sales 2022 0,81x
Nbr of Employees 28 000
Free-Float 53,0%
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Technical analysis trends LAGARDÈRE S.A.
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TrendsNeutralNeutralNeutral
Income Statement Evolution
Consensus
Sell
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Mean consensus OUTPERFORM
Number of Analysts 8
Last Close Price 22,36 €
Average target price 24,10 €
Spread / Average Target 7,78%
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Managers and Directors
Arnaud Lagardère Chairman-Management Board & CEO
Sophie Isabelle Stabile Group Chief Financial Officer
Patrick Valroff Chairman-Supervisory Board
Susan M. Tolson Independent Member-Supervisory Board
Soumia Belaidi Malinbaum Independent Member-Supervisory Board
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