Havas tightens Canal + grip as Rousselet walks

PARIS — Canal Plus chairman Andre Rousselet resigned Friday from the board of Havas “in total disagreement with decisions” that merge the holdings in the TV service of Havas, Society Generale and Generale des Eaux.

The pact Havas made with Canal Plus’ other main shareholders gives the group near control over the pay TV channel without triggering the battle for power that markets had expected, analysts said.

Havas agreed with Societe Generale and Generale des Eaux to act in concert on their Canal Plus stakes.

Deal details

Havas said it would put its 23.5% stake in Canal Plus into a joint holding firm with Generale des Eaux’s 20.1% stake and Societe Generale’s 5.1%. Havas would have 54% control of the new holding firm, giving it control over decisions made by the block of shareholders.

With the pact sealed on Thursday, Havas has achieved its aim of tightening its hold on Canal Plus without having to buy more Canal Plus shares. It has also avoided making Generale des Eaux into one of its main shareholders, an idea it found uncomfortable, analysts said.

The pact also disappointed the Paris Bourse, where players had been speculating that bids would be made for control of Canal Plus after a new law on the radio and television industry came into effect Feb. 1.

The law allows firms to take up to 49% in a media firm instead of a previous 25%.

Canal Plus slid on Friday to close at 1,088 francs ($ 2187), down 15, on volume of 63,815 shares, Generale des Eaux shares lost 11 francs to 2,776 ($ 555 ) on 44,110 shares, and Societe Generale fell eight francs at 700 ($ 140) with 370,270 shares changing hands.

But Havas ended the session up four at 472.50 ($ 95) on 263,925 shares after reaching a high at 480.50 earlier in the day.

“Havas is the only company that comes out as a winner. The impact for the other companies is neutral,” said Joanna Clapp, analyst at Hoare Govett in London.

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