'Le Monde' attracts two bids


A TAKEOVER of Le Mondedrew closer yesterday when it was announced that two firm bids had been received for France’s most venerable newspaper.

A consortium that includes France Telecom, Spanish media group Prisa and Claude Perdriel, owner of the left-leaning magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, has tabled a bid for the troubled daily believed to be worth up to €100 million. France Telecom’s involvement has raised eyebrows as the company is 26 per cent owned by the French state.

The bid faces competition from a trio of wealthy investors: Lazard banker Matthieu Pigasse, telecoms tycoon Xavier Niel and industrialist Pierre Berge. President Nicolas Sarkozy, who summoned Le Monde’spublisher to the Elysée Palace this month to discuss the takeover plans, is believed to be uncomfortable with the idea of Le Mondebeing sold to the Pigasse-Niel-Berge trio. Two of the men are close to senior figures in the opposition Socialist Party.

The two bids will be reviewed on Thursday and Friday by employee unions in a general meeting, and the newspaper’s supervisory board will designate the winner on June 28th.

Circulation at the heavily indebted Le Mondehas fallen by about 25 per cent in a decade. Without new funds, it might not be able to keep printing and pay wages through the summer.