The European Commission announced on Tuesday the opening of a formal investigation into a possible early takeover of Lagardère by Vivendi in violation of European Union rules. On June 9, the Commission authorized Vivendi, the group of billionaire Vincent Bolloré, to absorb its former rival Lagardère, on condition that it sell its publishing subsidiary and the magazine Gala. If it turns out that the operation was implemented before this green light, Brussels could impose a fine on Vivendi of up to 10% of its total turnover.
The EU “requires companies to notify operations with a European dimension and to wait for our authorization before carrying them out. In addition, companies must respect the commitments they submit to us, on the basis of which we authorize an operation, ”said the Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, quoted in a press release. “At this stage, the Commission has collected enough elements to open a formal investigation procedure aimed at determining whether Vivendi has complied with our procedures,” she added.
The opening of an investigation “in no way prejudges the existence of an infringement. It does not call into question the authorization of the acquisition of Lagardère by Vivendi given by the European Commission”, reacted Vivendi in a statement sent to AFP. "At this stage, Vivendi has no details on this investigation with which it intends to cooperate fully", insisted the company, adding "to have fully respected the rules applicable to concentrations" and to undertake "to continue to respect them until the full execution of the remedies offered to the European Commission for the merger with Lagardère". A spokeswoman for the EU executive had already announced in mid-June that she was looking into a possible breach of the rules, but the suspicions are now being formally investigated.
The NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had called for such an investigation, "given the numerous signals attesting to Vincent Bolloré's growing hold on the media of the Lagardère group even before the validation of the takeover". Its secretary general, Christophe Deloire, estimated Tuesday evening on the social network Twitter, renamed "X", that this opening of investigation was "excellent news". The NGO had pointed to "the significant changes that have taken place, particularly in the editorial staff of the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) and even more significantly at Paris Match".