* Vivendi agrees to buy Amber Capital stake in Lagardere
* Deal would be a prelude to full takeover offer
* Lagardere purchase would extend Vivendi's media influence
* Stake sale may yet take many months to clinch
PARIS, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Vivendi said on Wednesday it was
set to purchase another stake in Paris Match magazine owner
Lagardere, paving the way for a full takeover which would extend
the influence of its controlling shareholder, Vincent Bollore,
over France's media landscape.
Canal+ owner Vivendi, which already has 27% of
Lagardere, said it had agreed to buy Amber Capital's
17.9% holding, for 24.10 euros per share or around 610 million
euros ($720.3 million).
It said it would later launch a full bid for Lagardere at
the same price, once it has passed the 30% threshold requiring
companies in France to make a takeover offer. That would value
Lagardere at around 3.4 billion euros, compared to its 2.7
billion euros market capitalisation at Wednesday's close.
If successful, the acquisition of Lagardere will mark the
end of what was once one of France's national industrial
champions, which under its late founder used to have large
stakes in companies like plane maker Airbus.
Heir and Chief Executive Arnaud Lagardere has sold off parts
of the conglomerate bit by bit. Last year he brought in
investors like Vivendi and luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault
when he was trying to fend off an activist campaign by Amber.
As well as travel retail operations and a publishing
business, which includes the Hachette label, it still has
influential media assets which Bollore and Arnault have lusted
after, sources close to the matter have said previously.
These include Paris Match, the Journal du Dimanche weekly
newspaper and Europe 1 radio station, which has already built
bridges with Bollore's CNews TV channel, a network that has been
topping ratings since taking a conservative turn.
Bollore's media intentions in France have ruffled feathers
in President Emmanuel Macron's inner circle, sources have said,
with some fearing his empire building could result in airwaves
inundated in more right-wing views ahead of a 2022 presidential
The billionaire is also set to cash in as Vivendi prepares
to list and spin-off Universal Music Group in September, raising
questions about how he might use the money.
The Amber stake sale could take months to close and requires
regulatory authorisations first, including from the European
Union, but Vivendi said it would launch an offer at the same
price once it had clinched the 45%. It is aiming for December
2022 at the latest.
Any subsequent takeover would also have to overcome
potential antitrust problems in other areas, as Vivendi also has
a publishing business, Editis.
But many of Lagardere's shareholder would likely be ready to
sell out, including the Qatar Investment Authority, which has
11.5%, people familiar with the matter have said.
LVMH boss Arnault, initially caught in a tug-of-war over
Lagardere, has largely withdrawn from the battle. He now has an
11% stake in Lagardere and has cut financial ties with the
firm's heir and chief executive, Arnaud Lagardere, after
initially investing in his holding company.
Lagardere said in a statement it was "delighted with the
investment project that Vivendi wishes to carry out."
Amber Capital had waged an activist campaign against
Lagardere, largely succeeding in the governance overhaul it had
sought after the firm this year scrapped an arcane partnership
structure that served as a buttress to takeovers.
Lagardere's offices in Paris were raided as part of a
judicial investigation on Wednesday, in connection to the
company's previous disputes with shareholders such as Amber.
A source familiar with Vivendi's management said the firm
would continue to back Arnaud Lagardere as Lagardere's CEO, and
had informed him in advance of the move with Amber.
($1 = 0.8469 euro)
(Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic and Sarah White in Paris,
Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Mathieu Rosemain
Editing by Alexander Smith, Matthew Lewis and David Gregorio)