Memo Pad: French Diet...Give Me a W Over a V...

French conglomerate Lagardere is in talks with several partners over the fate of its international magazine business.

FRENCH DIET: French conglomerate Lagardère is in talks with several partners over the fate of its international magazine business, a spokeswoman for the company said Wednesday.

“These are informal discussions which can result in anything from partnerships to joint ventures to an outright sale, but at this stage nothing is fixed and no time limit has been set,” she said.

Lagardère is keen to identify ways to reduce costs and find synergies for its overseas business, where it has yet to achieve the critical mass it has in France. The group will hold on to its French magazine division and plans to retain editorial control over foreign editions of Elle magazine, the spokeswoman added. She declined comment on speculation earlier this year that Hearst Corp. was interested in buying a controlling stake in Elle and its U.S. subsidiary Hachette’s other publications in America. “They are certainly one of the possible partners, but by no means the only one,” the spokeswoman said.

Hearst executives did not return calls seeking comment.

According to Laurent Ohana, an adviser to Paris-based investment firm Ohana & Co. and principal of Parkview Technology Merchant Banking, interested parties could include “big media companies, such as Time Warner, Hearst and Condé Nast, with whom straight sales or complex joint ventures are possible.” However, he said he would not rule out private equity firms such as Providence Equity, Bain and Elevation, “who have the firepower both in terms of capital and know-how to buy and build a business in the magazine and media sectors.”

Lagardère’s overseas magazine business generated revenues of 700 to 800 million euros, or $976 million to $1.1 billion, in 2009 out of total revenues of 1.3 billion euros, or $1.8 billion, for the periodicals division as a whole. — Joelle Diderich and Miles Socha

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