French media and aerospace company Lagardère plans to enter the auction of Vivendi Universal’s publishing assets.

“We will submit an offer to Vivendi Universal management to take over the French side of Vivendi Universal Publishing,” declared the group’s joint manager Arnaud Lagardère. These assets include dictionary and reference book publishers Larousse and Le Robert.

Desperate to cut his group’s massive debt millstone, new Vivendi ceo Jean-René Fourtou is offloading huge swathes of the media empire built up under predecessor Jean-Marie Messier. His initial plan to sell certain parts of the firm’s publishing portfolio recently turned into a wholesale clearance [WAMN: 09-Sep-02].

A sale of the French units to Lagardère would appease the nation’s politicians, terrified that some of France’s cultural jewels might fall into US hands.

It would, however, encounter regulatory scrutiny, requiring green lights from competition authorities both in Paris and Brussels.

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