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Bid for France’s Le Monde May Be About $123 Million

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June 21 (Bloomberg) -- France Telecom SA, Nouvel Observateur, and Promotora de Informaciones SA are offering about 100 million euros ($123 million) for control of French newspaper Le Monde, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Groupe SFA PAR, the parent of the Nouvel Observateur magazine, is the largest participant, accounting for 45 percent of the total, said the person, who declined to be identified because talks are private. Prisa and France Telecom account for 35 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

Le Monde, France’s 65-year-old newspaper of record, is seeking new investors to ward off a cash crunch. The newspaper today said it received bids from the France Telecom group as well as a trio of investors that includes Iliad SA founder Xavier Niel and Yves Saint Laurent Group partner Pierre Berge.

France Telecom is in separate discussions with Lagardere SCA to purchase its 34 percent stake in Le Monde Interactif, the newspaper’s separately controlled digital arm, a person familiar with the situation said last week.

France Roque, a spokeswoman for Nouvel Observateur, Anne Hartenstein, a spokeswoman for Le Monde, and Tom Wright, a spokesman for France Telecom, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Prisa didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

This month, Le Monde extended its deadline for firm offers after president Nicolas Sarkozy weighed in on the talks. Chief Executive Officer Eric Fottorino told colleagues that Sarkozy expressed opposition to the bid from a group that includes Berge, who backed Socialist candidate Segolene Royal in the 2007 presidential election, said Adrien de Tricornot, vice president of the Society of Editors labor group.

Politically Centrist

Le Monde is the most politically centrist of the three major Paris dailies, making its support important to leaders. The other main papers are the left-leaning Liberation and the conservative Figaro, owned by Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault SA.

The daily, based in Paris’s 13th arrondissement, cut 130 jobs after a 2008 cost-cutting exercise 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 OJD, the national circulation office.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Campbell in London at mcampbell39@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net.

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