Roularta to sell magazines to head of Altice Patrick Drahi

<p>Media group Roularta is in exclusive negotiations with tycoon Patrick Drahi to sell seven French titles.</p>

Belgian media group Roularta Media Group today (January 8th) said it would only negotiate with businessman Patrick Drahi, who partnered with TV executive Marc Laufer, for the sale of several magazines, including L'Express.

Patrick Drahi is the head of Altice, the parent company of Numericable and SFR, which has already invested in 2014 in daily newspaper Libération.

He masterminded French cable operator Numericable’s acquisition of larger mobile rival SFR and is in the process of acquiring Portugal Telecom, and has reportedly been in exclusive talks with Roularta for several weeks.

Besides the weekly L'Express, talks with the tandem Drahi Laufer also include titles L'Expansion, Mieux Vivre Votre Argent, Lire, Classica, Pianiste et Studio Ciné Live, as well as the websites of L'Entreprise, Job Rencontres and Distrijob, said Roularta in a statement

No financial details were disclosed in the statement on Thursday, but Roularta – which acquired these magazines in 2006 for €210 million (£164 million), is said to be looking to sell these for a few tens of millions of euros, according to BFM Business.

In its last interim results, Roularta said it encountered persistent difficulties with its French magazines, affected by a sharp decline in advertising revenues and sales, and whose deficits weigh on the overall results.

In 2013, the Belgian group had a net loss of €57.9 million, mainly because of its French magazines. In response, it has implemented cost reduction measures and slashed its workforce.

However, since Roularta announced its intention to sell, many media groups have indicated interest, such as Vivendi, newspaper Le Figaro, Newsco, Numericable and Agence-France Presse.

Analysts believe the appeal of Roularta’s publications lies not only on the print side, but also through their websites. L’Express has for instance reported two million monthly web visitors.

Roularta shares were down 2.4 per cent to 11.49 euros at 0855 ET today.

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