Vivendi takes command of Prisa with Amber

Posted on Jan 22, 2021, 10:19 AMUpdated Jan 24, 2021, 3:21 PM

Vivendi is gaining a foothold in the media in Spain by coming to support Amber, its ally on the Lagardère issue, in the capital of Prisa, a media group long essential beyond the Pyrenees, but today financially fragile.

The group controlled by Vincent Bolloré has indeed taken a 7.6% share in the Spanish, owner in particular of the powerful newspaper “El Pais”, the radio Cadena SER, the sports daily “As” and the school publisher. Santillana. And which also owns 20% of the capital of the majority shareholder of the Le Monde group, controlled by Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse in France.

Two paintings

Vivendi is joining the Amber fund, which holds nearly 30% of the capital, as well as the telecoms operator Telefónica (around 10%), in an attempt to stabilize the group’s shareholding. And put in place the reforms that this camp deems necessary given the debt burden. Vivendi is expected to request a seat on the board of directors of Prisa, recently chaired by Joseph Oughourlian, founder of Amber.

As often when he looks at a new issue, Vincent Bolloré plays on at least two tables: industrial and financial. Prisa is not what it used to be, especially since it left television by selling Digital Plus in 2013, the Spanish Canal +, to alleviate its debt. But it offers a stepping stone for Vivendi in the media while the latter still aims to constitute in this sector an important group in southern Europe, a region less vulnerable to the assaults of the American giants. In its press release, Vivendi also says it wants to “expand its access to Spanish-speaking markets in Europe, Latin America and the United States. “

Collapse in advertising revenue

The French group, whose participation would amount to only about 70 million euros, would have taken, according to the Spanish press, a block of shares in HSBC, thus entering at a good price in the capital of Prisa. The Spanish has been experiencing difficulties for several years, which the health crisis has worsened. At the end of October, he indicated that he had suffered a net loss of 209 million, due to the collapse of his advertising revenues very affected by the pandemic. “The inevitable sale of many assets will crystallize their value in the whole Prisa, and Vincent Bolloré can only achieve a good financial transaction”, says a good connoisseur of the file. Vivendi is taking a small ticket on its scale, since it has just sold 20% of its subsidiary Universal Music for 6 billion euros.

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Vivendi is already present in Spain through its music subsidiary Universal and its communication agency Havas. The owner of Canal + also owns the Spanish television production company Bambú Producciones (behind in particular “Les Demoiselles du Téléphone”). Its Gameloft subsidiary also has a video game production studio there, which notably designed Asphalt.

Like Prisa, Vivendi is also active in the press as it is preparing to take over the Prisma magazine group from Bertelsmann, as well as in publishing, with number two in France, Editis, acquired from another Spanish, Planeta. , in 2018. Santillana, however, operates in school publishing and has sold its Spanish part, it only keeps its assets in South America.

“A demonstration of support for Amber”

The operation nevertheless arouses astonishment among some financial analysts. “I find it hard to see the logic, asks a professional. At first glance, there are no synergies between Prisma, which specializes in magazines, and a daily like “El Pais”. Also, if Vivendi was so interested in publishing, why didn’t it buy the Spanish branch of Santillana a few months ago, which has since been sold? “

For the latter, we must therefore see “a billiard shot with several bands” linked to the battle that Vivendi and Amber lead against the management of Lagardère. Financial analysts are very attentive to the way in which Vivendi redeploys the capital released by the sale of 20% of Universal Music, and some were already surprised that it is investing in a low growth company like Prisma. The Prisa operation was in any case very well received on the Spanish Stock Exchange. The group climbed 9.6%, while in Paris Vivendi closed down 0.2%.

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