Arnaud Lagardère, the head of the Lagardère group, has tried hard to persuade France that his close friendship with Nicolas Sarkozy has not compromised the editorial independence of his media empire.
Last month, at an annual investor meeting, Mr Lagardère quoted statistics that showed the front pages of Paris Match and Le Journal du Dimanche – two titles under his ultimate control – had not been dominated by the eventually victorious UMP candidate for the
Days later, Lagardère denied a Socialist claim its boss had been among admirers at a Sarkozy rally. Finally, Le Monde, the influential daily paper in which Lagardère is a minority shareholder, gave its lukewarm backing to the doomed Ségolène Royal just before the second round of voting.
Yet in spite of these pre-election demonstrations of neutrality, Mr Lagardère appears well placed to benefit from his friend’s triumph. His company is, after all, one of the main investors in EADS, whose plans for a restructuring of its Airbus subsidiary had been criticised by Ms Royal.
Serge Dassault is another friend of Mr Sarkozy who has interests spanning the media and aerospace. He controls, along with Le Figaro, the daily broadsheet, the company that makes the Rafale fighter jets used by the French military. He is also a UMP senator.
On Monday, however, the stock market was more preoccupied with the immediate future of a third Sarkozy ally in the business community: Martin Bouygues, the man who controls the Bouygues conglomerate, whose interests span construction, property, television and mobile telephone services. Bouygues shares rose 3.5 per cent to €62.08 yesterday, partly in the hope that it could benefit from a Sarkozy-led shake-up of France’s industrial landscape, although speculation about a possible sale of its mobile telephone arm seemed to lift the stock, too.
Bouygues’s property development arm could also benefit from Mr Sarkozy’s plan to exempt mortgage interest from tax in order to stimulate home ownership in a nation with a traditional preference for renting.
Investors cautiously welcomed Mr Sarkozy’s election as president, as economists focused on whether the win would translate into a majority in June’s parliamentary elections, providing a clear mandate for reform.
Summing up the widespread optimism about Mr Sarkozy’s mandate for reform, Laurence Boone, an economist at Barclays Capital in Paris, said: “Sarkozy’s victory should open the door to wide-ranging labour market reforms preceded by a reform of the unions’ representation and role in negotiating labour market laws.”
Alain Bokobza, the head of European equity strategy at Société Générale, said: “In the medium term, the market will be very attentive to the impact of the new government’s policies on the performance of France’s economy.”
Investors had been shifting money to Germany’s Dax-30 index, to profit from its economic rebound.
“Germany has been firing on all cylinders recently so, when you compare the CAC-40 to the Dax-30, it is not a pretty picture for French equities,” he said.
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