Lagardere close to selling international magazines: source

By Nadia Damouni and Jennifer Saba

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – The French publisher of Elle magazine is nearing a decision to sell its portfolio of international titles to one of two bidders: U.S.-based Hearst Corp or Germany-based Bauer Media Group.

Media group Lagardere (LAGA.PA: ) would reap about 600 million to 700 million euros ($786 million to $916 million) from the sale, according to a source with knowledge of the talks.

“It is a two-horse race and it is getting relatively close to the end of the race,” said the source. “There was a hope that they would have reached an understanding by Christmas.”

Lagardere said in early December it was seeking to sell its international magazine division as it was cutting costs and shifting its focus to other assets based in France.

Lagardere publishes 212 titles, including Car and Driver and Woman’s Day, in 45 countries.

Asked earlier Tuesday about media reports that said Lagardere was close to deciding on a buyer, a Lagardere spokesman said the reports were “unfounded.”

“The (sale) process is continuing but we are not at all at the stage mentioned by the story,” the spokesman said.

Privately held Hearst publishes such magazines as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Esquire. “We are always talking to other companies about opportunities, but we don’t comment on speculation as a matter of policy,” Hearst’s spokesman said.

Bauer, the publisher of In Touch Weekly and Woman’s World, declined to comment.

Lagardere had reached out to Hearst and Bauer Media in the hopes that either publisher would be interested in buying its international titles, said the source.

Bauer, for instance, acquired UK-based Emap’s consumer magazines and radio divisions in 2007.

Before Hearst and Bauer could proceed further in the process they were required to put forth “reasonably definitive proposals” said the source.

Hearst and Bauer are closely inspecting Lagardere’s international magazine stable, said the source.

Another source familiar with the situation said Hearst is preparing for due diligence in the new year.

Lagardere is being advised by JPMorgan and Rothschild, according to two sources.

(Reporting by Nadia Damouni and Jennifer Saba, editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Phil Berlowitz)

Lagardere close to selling international magazines: source