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Vivendi in negotiations on the sale of publishing arms to Kretinsky to facilitate the agreement with Lagardere

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By Sudip Kar-Gupta

PARIS (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Vivendi is in exclusive talks to sell publisher Editis to a company owned by billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, it said Tuesday, in a deal that could help secure regulatory approval for its acquisition of Lagardere.

The French media conglomerate, controlled by billionaire Vincent Bollore, is aiming to buy the owner of Hachette Lagardere.

But the prospect of merging Editis with France’s largest publisher sparked criticism from independent publishers and led to Editis losing some well-known authors.

European Union antitrust authorities also sent Vivendi a formal statement of objections over the proposed acquisition.

Vivendi said it is in talks to sell Editis with International Media Invest (IMI), a subsidiary of Czech Media Invest founded by Kretinsky.

Vivendi said its decision to enter the talks meant it was abandoning an earlier plan to spin off Editis and take it to the Paris stock market.

Vivendi added that the planned sale of Editis would require approval from the European Commission.

“I am very happy and proud of the possibility of becoming a shareholder of a publishing flagship like Editis if the process goes through,” Kretinsky said in a statement.

“I am aware of the responsibilities such an acquisition entails given the quality of the houses that make up the group and their place in French intellectual history,” he added.

“The sale of Editis is part of Vivendi’s appeal strategy with the European Commission to get clearance to take over Lagardere,” said Gregoire Laverne, a fund manager at APICIL Asset Management who owns Vivendi shares.

Laverne said a sale of Editis could be worth around 600-900 million euros ($642 million-$964 million).

Kretinsky has created one of Europe’s largest energy companies over the past 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, additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon, editing by Mark Potter and Jason Neely)