The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of Lagardère by Vivendi.
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The Commission is concerned that the proposed acquisition may reduce competition on a number of markets across the entire book value chain in French-speaking countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) and in a segment of magazine publishing in France.
Vivendi and Lagardère are both French multi-media groups active, among others, in book and magazine publishing. For what concerns these markets, Vivendi (via Editis) and Lagardère (via Hachette) are leading players in the publishing of French-language books in French-speaking countries of the European Union.
Both companies are active throughout the book value chain, from the acquisition of publishing rights to the marketing, distribution and sale of books to retailers.
At this stage, the Commission is concerned that:
• By acquiring Lagardère, Vivendi would become the number one player in the French-language book publishing sector, as well as the main integrated group active on that market. The parties are the first and second largest companies active on most of the markets of the book value chain.
Other competitors, such as Madrigall or Média-Participations, have a more limited market presence.
The Commission is concerned that the transaction may reduce French-language book diversity, accessibility and affordability.
In particular, the Commission considers that, because of the strengthened market position of the combined entity: publishers may be deprived of critical sources of revenues to sustain their activities stemming from the publishing of best-selling authors, publishers may be restricted in their access to crucial services for the marketing and distribution of their books, and bookshops and readers may face reduced margins and increased prices, respectively.
• The transaction would combine three celebrity magazines, namely Paris Match of Lagardère and Gala and Voici of Vivendi, and may create a strong leader on the market. The Commission is concerned that this could negatively impact quality, diversity and prices for readers of this type of magazines.
The Commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation into the potential effects of the transaction to determine whether its initial competition concerns are confirmed.
The transaction was notified to the Commission on 24 October 2022. ■