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Lagardere to list Canal Plus stock

Move follows breakdown in talks with Vivendi

MADRID — Gallic conglom Lagardere Ent. will list its stake in Gallic pay TV operator Canal Plus France.

The move follows the breakdown in talks between Lagardere and Vivendi. CPF is 80% owned by Vivendi via its 100% film-TV subsid Canal Plus Group. Lagardere holds the remaining 20%.

Vivendi chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy has made public his desire for full ownership of Vivendi’s French subsids. Last year, Vivendi bought up the CPF 15% shareholding owned by French broadcasters TF1 and M6.

Under a 2007 shareholders’ pact, Lagardere can exercise an option to sell its stake to Vivendi or list it if Vivendi passes.

It is not clear whether Lagardere will make an initial public offering on part or all of its stake. The latter seems more likely, however.

Lagardere was reportedly seeking Euros1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) for its 20% stake, but subsequently dropped its offer to $1.7 billion.

The market is skeptical as to whether Lagardere could raise such a sum through a float.

Analyst Christophe Cherblanc at Societe Generale estimated the value of Lagardere’s 20% CPF stake at Euros1.2 billion ($1.5 billion), including Euros150 million ($189 million) from Lagardere’s 20% share of CPF cash.

An IPO would not go through until October at the earliest. That gives Vivendi time to rejoin talks, said Cherblanc.

Lagardere’s exit from CPG was widely expected. In 2009, Lagardere’s net profits fell 77% to Euros137 million ($172.6 million) off $9.9 billion revenues, sourced from sports rights brokering, publishing, radio and TV, and a 7.5% stake in EADS, a Franco-German manufacturing biz.

Lagardere chief exec Arnaud Lagardere is also under pressure to reduce debt from a current $2.3 billion, and focus on Lagardere’s core publishing, sports and retail businesses.

Rupert Murdoch’s interest in gaining full ownership of BSkyB should not affect CPF’s valuation, said Cherblanc: “The profile of BSkyB and Canal Plus are different and News Corp.’s interest in BSkyB has to analyzed from the point of view of News Corp.’s situation,” he added.

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