Lagardere may contest M6 in bid

Cabler carrying $18.8 mil in debt

PARIS — Gallic media group Lagardere may muscle in as French web M6 and parent Suez try to negotiate the sale of cable and satellite channel Paris Premiere.

Troubled diversified conglom Suez, which owns 37.6% of M6, wants to sell its 88.9% stake in Paris Premiere to M6, which itself holds 10.66% of the thematic web. But Lagardere, on the hunt for more media acquisitions, is reportedly on the brink of making a d30 million ($35.3 million) offer for the cable channel.

Lagardere’s bid would force M6 to exercise its preemption right on the sale of Paris Premiere, upping the amount of coin it would have to lay out.

Lagardere, on the other hand, plans to beef up its coffers via the sale of certain businesses including its automobile division, and through a possible bond sale in France.

Familiar foes

If Lagardere does make an offer for Paris Premiere, it would be another move in the rivalry between M6, which owns theme channels TF6, Serie Club, Teva and Fun TV, and the French media conglom, which controls MCM and Canal J and has a stake in MultiThematiques.

The two compete in satellite broadcasting, as M6 partly owns Gallic satcaster TPS while Lagardere holds a minority stake in Canal Satellite.

For M6’s part, wholly owning Paris Premiere would give it a better shot at stabilizing the web, which lost $10.6 million in 2001 and $8.2 million in 2002, through cost-sharing of production (which represents 50% of Paris Premieres’ budget), acquisition and broadcasting fees.

Paris Premiere is carried on all French cable platforms as well as the two Gallic satcasters. It has practically no cash and is carrying $18.8 million in debt, which will considerably lower the pricetag.

Lagardere did not return phone calls requesting comment.