Nouvel Observateur Chief Executive Says France Telecom to Join Monde Bid

France Telecom SA will join the parent company of the Nouvel Observateur magazine in its bid for a stake in Le Monde, France’s struggling newspaper of record, according to the magazine’s chief executive officer.

The companies will make a firm offer on June 21, with France Telecom contributing 20 million euros ($24.6 million) to 25 million euros in an 80 million-euro bid, CEO Claude Perdriel said. Beatrice Mandine, a spokeswoman for Paris-based France Telecom, declined to comment. Groupe SFA PAR, which controls Nouvel Observateur, made a “pre-offer” last week.

“I am very happy and enthusiastic to work with France Telecom,” Perdriel told reporters in Paris today, adding he’s “happy to welcome other investors,” while keeping control of Le Monde if he succeeds.

The newspaper is in talks with investor groups to resolve a capital crunch, attracting attention from President Nicolas Sarkozy. Last week he told Le Monde CEO Eric Fottorino that he opposed a rival bid by investors including Pierre Berge, who has backed the opposition Socialist Party.

Berge is bidding with Lazard Ltd. banker Matthieu Pigasse and Iliad SA founder Xavier Niel for control of the afternoon daily. The paper typically stakes out the political center between the conservative Figaro and left-wing Liberation, making its support important for politicians.

No Management Role

Combined, SFA and France Telecom would hold about 65 percent of Le Monde, Perdriel said. Nouvel Observateur Deputy CEO Denins Olivennes said the telephone company, France’s largest, wouldn’t have input on the newspaper’s management.

The Paris-based daily cut 130 jobs in a 2008 cost-cutting program that aimed to save 15 million euros annually.

Circulation declined last year at all three major Paris dailies. Readership fell by 9.5 percent to 111,000 at Liberation, 4.1 percent to 288,000 at Le Monde and 1.8 percent to 314,000 at Le Figaro, according to national circulation office OJD.

To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Campbell in Paris via mcampbell39@bloomberg.net; Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet@bloomberg.net.

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