Big French radio sale put into limbo

France’s privatization program suffered a setback as the government informed bidders for state-owned Radio Monte Carlo the sale won’t go through as scheduled.

In a statement distributed to bidders, which hasn’t yet been made public, the bidding process officially was declared “inconclusive.”

Media group Havas SA, energy and telecommunications giant Alcatel-Alsthom SA, radio concern NRJ SA and magazine publisher VSD each bid for the French government’s 83% of Radio Monte Carlo.

The other 17% of Radio Monte Carlo is owned by the principality of Monaco, which will retain its stake.

It wasn’t immediately known whether the French government planned to schedule a second round of bidding.

Nevertheless, the cancellation of the current round will be a disappointment for Havas, which was understood to have submitted the highest offer for Radio Monte Carlo — about 540 million francs ($ 110 million), according to Havas chairman Pierre Dauzier.

According to sources familiar with the bidding process, Havas’ bid fell short of a minimum 600 million francs ($ 120 million) that authorities were prepared to accept.

However, there are also suspicions that the government feared conflict-of-interest problems in the event that Havas, a key player in radio and TV advertising space sales, controlled a radio station.

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