February 13, 2013 7:37 am

Lagardère files suit against Vivendi

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Lagardère, the French media conglomerate, is taking Vivendi to court to demand that its rival return €1.6bn of cash to Canal Plus France, the pay-TV channel owned by the two companies.

Vivendi, the media and telecoms group, owns 80 per cent of Canal Plus France and Lagardère the remaining 20 per cent.

Lagardère had wanted to sell the stake through an initial public offering but has been stymied by market conditions. It has also discussed selling the stake to Vivendi, though its rival is already engaged in an attempt to sell some of its other assets to cut debt and the two sides have been unable to agree on a price.

In a statement, Vivendi said: “The group considers that this is an attempt by the Lagardère Group to destabilise Vivendi and force it to buy back the former’s stake in Canal Plus France.”

Lagardère is asking the Paris Commercial Court to cancel an agreement, in place since 2007 that allows Vivendi access to €1.6bn cash generated by Canal Plus France and demand that the group return the funds to the pay-TV group.

Lagardère argues that the agreement is null and void because it was not approved by the Canal Plus France supervisory board. Vivendi denies the allegation, saying the cash deal did not need prior approval from the board and that it was approved by a Lagardère subsidiary when Canal Plus France was created in 2007.

Lagardère has argued that the value of Canal Plus France is diminished by the fact that cash is allocated to Vivendi rather than being spent on a dividend.

It said: “Lagardère regrets that this situation, which was created by the Vivendi group, has caused a deadlock preventing Canal Plus France, as things stand, from going ahead with an IPO in normal conditions.”

Vivendi said it was planning to file a countersuit against Lagardère for abuse of legal process.

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