The barbarians have been halted at the gate and French culture lives to fight another day. Vive le Culture Française!

A long exhalation of relief ran the length of the Champs Elysee on Tuesday as news came that French publishing giant Lagardère had won the auction for the non-US publishing assets of Vivendi Universal in contention with [mainly] US rivals.

The prize was knocked down for a sum between €1.2 billion ($1.17bn; £0.76bn) and €1.3bn, according to insiders. Vivendi will now probably auction-off US educational publisher Houghton Mifflin as a separate entity.

Its exclusion from the main sale came as a surprise to observers, most of whom believe the decision to separate the French assets was commercial rather than patriotic.

The unexpected conclusion to the auction and the concomitant shortfall in cash does not improve the odds of Vivendi winning control of French telecom firm Cegetel from London-headquartered telecoms giant Vodafone [WAMN: 16-Oct-02].

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff