UPDATE 2-Lagardere close to selling int’l magazines-source

* Lagardere could fetch up to 700 mln euros from sale

* Hearst and Bauer are the lead buyers for the assets

* Talks could conclude before the end of the year
(Adds more detail and background)

By Nadia Damouni and Jennifer Saba

NEW YORK, Dec 21 (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.
[ID:nLDE6B024U]

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.
(1 euro=$1.3092)
(Reporting by Nadia Damouni and Jennifer Saba, editing by Gerald
E. McCormick, Phil Berlowitz)

UPDATE 2-Lagardere close to selling int’l magazines-source