Banijay and Canal+ shareholder Vivendi has increased its ownership stake in publishing and retail group Lagardere to 55%.
Vivendi currently has a tender offer for the entire company and has extended its bid until 9 June as it is being reviewed by EU antitrust authorities.
Should it be approved, the merger would combine France’s two biggest publishing groups to make Vivendi the world’s third-biggest publisher (after Bertelsmann-owned Penguin Random House and News Corp-owned HarperCollins).
The merger would bring together pay TV operator Canal+, conservative news channel CNEWS, Paris Match, weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche and radio station Europe 1, along with publishing groups Hachette and Editis.
While the merger has faced opposition from indie publishers in France, its biggest hurdles are Qatar’s sovereign fund and Arnaud Lagardere, the second- and third-largest shareholder in Lagardere respectively. Each owns around 11% of the company, but both have said that they will not sell.
The family of Bernard Arnault meanwhile has agreed to sell a 2% stake, with it owning around 10% in the publisher.
Vivendi is said to be ready to spend up to €2bn to acquire all of Lagardere’s listed shares, though it said that it does not intend on taking the publisher out of the stock market.
Vivendi previously held 45.9% of Lagardere’s voting rights, but said that it would only use 22.5% in accordance with the terms of the takeover until it is officially cleared by regulators.
Lagardère sold its main TV interests to M6 Group in 2019, including leading kids channel Gulli, with Vivendi and Groupe Les Echos – Le Parisien teaming up to acquire classic music channel Mezzo in a separate deal.