Qatar raises stake in French conglomerate

Gulf state increases holding in Lagardere to 12.8%; says it could yet invest further
Qatar raises stake in French conglomerate
Arnaud Lagardere, general and managing partner of Lagardere Group
By Reuters
Mon 19 Mar 2012 06:12 PM

Energy-rich emirate Qatar has increased its stake again in Lagardere, boosting its position as the largest shareholder in the French media-to-aerospace conglomerate.

The unit of the Qatar Investment Authority, the emirate's sovereign wealth fund, said in a regulatory filing it could raise the stake further after increasing it to 12.8 percent and may seek representation on the group's supervisory board.

The Gulf state has been a staunch supporter of chief executive Arnaud Lagardere in the face of criticism from some shareholders of the CEO's strategy for the company his father founded, becoming its top shareholder in December.

Lagardere had a steep net loss of 707m euros ($931m) last year, triggered by write-downs at its fledgling sports rights and marketing business and its French pay-TV unit.

The results capped a tumultuous year in which it scaled back profit goals twice because of problems at the sports unit and scrapped plans for an initial public offering of pay-TV unit Canal+ after the Japan earthquake roiled markets.

After losing a third of their value last year, Lagardere shares have risen more than 15 percent since the start of this year.

Qatar Holding now owns 16.82 million of the shares, giving it just over 10 percent of voting rights in the group, which has a market value of about 3bn euros.

Qatar Holding said in the filing that it may discuss strategic partnerships "allowing the creation of long-term value for shareholders" of Lagardere, though there were no specific plans. It also added that it had no merger plans for the group.

Lagardere, which competes with Pearson and Bertelsmann in radio and book publishing, had no immediate comment. The Lagardere family retains 9.6 percent in the group, according to its website.

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