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Lagardere Revenue Slips as ‘Twilight’ Sales Fall

Lagardere SCA, France’s biggest publisher, said first-quarter revenue fell 1.5 percent as sales of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire-themed “Twilight” novels were eroded.

Revenue slid to 1.75 billion euros ($2.23 billion), from 1.78 billion euros a year earlier, the Paris-based company said in a statement. The services division, Lagardere’s largest, saw sales climb 1.9 percent to 824 million euros.

Chief Executive Officer Arnaud Lagardere is trying to focus the company built by his father Jean-Luc on its core media businesses, which include Elle magazine and Paris Match. Lagardere last month began a process to sell its 20 percent stake in Canal Plus France, the largest French pay-TV operator, which is 80 percent owned by Vivendi SA.

“We have been able to take advantage of the first signs of recovery,” Arnaud Lagardere said in the statement. “Despite an unstable economic climate, current trends are encouraging. If they are confirmed over the coming months, we do not rule out revising our 2010 full-year guidance upwards.”

The company’s shares rose 3 percent to 27.91 euros in Paris trading.

Goldman Sachs analysts including Richard Jones upgraded Lagardere stock from “sell” to “neutral” following today’s statement. They cited cyclical improvements in the company’s businesses and the possibility of asset sales, including that of its Canal Plus stake.

‘Return to Normal’

Lagardere last year benefitted from the success of Meyer’s vampire-themed “Twilight” novels, published by its Hachette Book Group unit. In a 2010 forecast issued in March, the company said its publishing division would see a “return to normal” after brisk sales of “Twilight” books and related products.

Last month, the company fought off a challenge from American activist shareholder Guy Wyser-Pratte, who sought a board seat to force a “strategic review” and changes to a corporate structure that gives Arnaud Lagardere extra powers.

The American investor failed to get on the company’s board, winning 22 percent of votes for his candidacy at the April 27 annual general meeting after a high-profile campaign.

Arnaud Lagardere has also pledged to dispose of the company’s 7.5 percent stake in jet-maker European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., a legacy of Lagardere’s past as a major defense contractor. The CEO has said any exit will have to be discussed first with the French government.

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