New Bidder Enters Battle for Les Echos

16 July 2007

PARIS: Fimalac, owner of credit ratings agency Fitch, has won the support of senior journalists at Les Echos after lodging a €245 million ($337.3m; £166.1m) bid to buy the newspaper, which is also a target of luxury goods group LVMH.

The French business title is owned by the Pearson Group - also home to the UK's Financial Times - which last month entered into exclusive negotiations with LVMH following its €240m offer for the Paris-based publication.

Journalists at Les Echos have since taken strike action on three separate occasions over fears that editorial independence would be affected by the takeover, despite proposals put forward by LVMH and Pearson providing assurances to the contrary.

Last week, the newspaper's editor, Jacques Barraux, said that a new bidder had been found, and Les Echos staff have since voted in favour of Fimalac's offer, which deputy editor, Erik Izraelewicz, likened to the arrival of a "white knight".

The exclusivity agreement between Pearson and LVMH is thought to end in November, but the latter will pursue its bid, and said it was surprised by the "attacks ... on the editorial independence and credibility" of its other media units.

Fimalac, led by Marc de Lacharrière, once of L'Oréal, has stated that there would be no redundancies if it takes ownership of Les Echos, and that the selection of the paper's editor would require the support of at least 55% of its journalists.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff