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Emap, the magazines and radio group, will conduct meetings with bidders for its French consumer magazines business over the next three weeks.

The company last week notified those who have made it to the next round of bidding. Italian media groups Mondadori and RCS Media are understood to be among those still in the running, while Prima Presse, a unit of Bertelsmann’s Gruner + Jahr, is also on the short list.

Eurazeo, a French private equity group, is still believed to be in the running. Several private equity companies have placed offers for the French magazines, but with volatile sales and returns taking a long time to realise, many private equity companies do not regard the assets suited for a highly geared balance sheet.

Emap France produces more than 40 titles, including the French versions of FHM and Closer. Until recently, the most profitable titles have been its television listings magazines, but margins have been squeezed due to poor news-stand performance and heavy competition.

Hachette Filipacchi, the magazine division of Lagardère, was regarded as a likely buyer for Emap’s French magazines, however it did not submit an offer due to competition concerns.

The second round of bids are to be in by the end of this month. Emap wants to complete the sale process by the end of September.

Analysts expect Emap to raise about £400m for the French assets. In March, the company said the French division was expected to see a 3 per cent fall in underlying revenues for the year which ended on March 31.

The company said that the French division had seen a 23 per cent decline in operating profit for the six months to September. The French performance has dragged down performance of the overall company.

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