Lagardere profits down

Earnings drop attributed to military defense trouble

PARIS — France’s Lagardere Group, which is making significant moves into digital TV, has reported 1999 profits of $233 million — a 14% drop. Revenues were up 15% to $1.2 billion.

Decline in profits was primarily due to trouble in the group’s military defense interests.

Lagardere, which suffered the ignominy eight years ago after the collapse of its terrestrial broadcaster La Cinq, staged a big comeback in French TV in January by taking a 34% stake in the Canal Plus digital platform Canal Satellite.

At the same time, it bought 27% of Multithematiques, a joint venture between Canal Plus and TCI that develops and distributes theme-based channels internationally.

Lagardere is planning to launch a range of theme-based webs, some of which will be based on top-selling publications it owns, such as Elle magazine. The first, a health channel, will launch in April. Company is also preparing to launch an interactive TV subsidiary.

At a press conference in Paris, Arnaud Lagardere, head of Lagardere Medias, the group’s media arm, spelled out the group’s ambitions for the rapidly developing Internet and interactive TV sectors: “In five to 10 years, we are going to be among the leaders.”

He also said that Lagardere, in line with current trends, may combine its new-media activities in a company that may be publicly traded.

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