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EU May Clear Lagardere’s Vivendi Purchase

December 3, 2003 GMT

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ European Union regulators indicated Wednesday they intend to clear Lagardere Groupe’s scaled-down purchase of publishing assets from Vivendi Universal.

EU antitrust chief Mario Monti ``has the intention to propose to his colleagues in the next few weeks to clear the operation,″ said spokeswoman Amelia Torres.

The move comes after chief executive Arnaud Lagardere told the antitrust team late Tuesday that it would hold on to only a few assets of Vivendi’s Editis publishing group, amounting to only about 40 percent of Editis’ revenue and half its profits.

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Lagardere told reporters in Paris on Wednesday that he also would part with Editis’ distribution platform along a few other branches of what used to be France’s biggest publishing house under its former name of Vivendi Universal Publishing.

He said he still wants to retain French dictionary publisher Larousse, French publishing houses Armand Collin, Dunod and Dalloz and Spanish publisher Anaya.

``I prefer coherence, even if it is smaller,″ Lagardere said.

Lagardere originally sought to keep a much bigger chunk of Editis as well as its distribution business, but faced strong opposition from the European Commission.

The antitrust authorities launched a full probe into the proposed euro1.25 billion ($1.5 billion) deal on June 5.

Once the deal is final, Lagardere, through its book publishing division Hachette Livre, will become France’s top publisher, he said.