The European Commission will conduct an in-depth antitrust investigation into the proposed acquisition of the French media group Lagardère by another national colossus, Vivendi.
The investigation progressed to the next stage after the EU executive identified several concerns about the merger’s impact on the book value chain across French-speaking European countries and France’s magazine publishing industry.
Vivendi’s owner, French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, is already a controversial figure, described in a documentary by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) last year as a threat to press freedom and democracy for what the organisation said was his “ruthless” control of reporting by the numerous media outlets within the Vivendi group.
Competitive markets in book publishing foster the diversity of ideas. It enables each part of the value chain to thrive, from the creation of content to the distribution,” said the EU’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
“The acquisition of Lagardère by Vivendi brings together two leading publishers of French-language books and popular magazines. Therefore, the transaction needs to be carefully assessed as it could reduce choice and lead to higher prices, less accessibility and lower quality for readers of French-language books and of certain French magazines,” she said.
The Commission launched preliminary inquiries into the deal last month and on Wednesday (30 November) announced its intention to advance proceedings to an in-depth investigation based on concerns that Vivendi’s purchase of Lagardère could hinder competition in both the book and magazine markets.
The preliminary investigation found that competition in the purchasing, distribution, and marketing of French-language books, along with their sale to retailers, could all be potentially decreased by the merger, which would make Vivendi the top actor in the French-language book publishing sector.