Arnault Again Ups Lagardère Stake Ahead of Court Decision

PARIS — Bernard Arnault has again upped his stake in Lagardère SCA, as a French commercial court is expected to wade into a battle between French industry titans for control of the embattled publishing and retail company.

Acting in concert, Groupe Arnault and Financière Agache, the holding company controlled by Groupe Arnault, together with a group of companies controlled by Arnaud Lagardère, chief executive officer of Lagardère, now jointly hold 15.01 percent of the capital of Lagardère SCA and 16.93 percent of voting rights.

The move, revealed by stock market regulator AMF in a filing on Tuesday, comes as a Paris court is set to rule on Wednesday on a request from Vivendi, a media group controlled by French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, and activist investor Amber Capital for an exceptional shareholder meeting, part of their bid to gain board representation.

Arnault, chairman and ceo of luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, first stepped in to support Lagardère last May, citing his friendship with founder Jean-Luc Lagardère, Arnaud Lagardère’s father, and saying the two families shared a long-term strategic vision for the company.

Arnault and Lagardère said their consortium does not aim to take control of Lagardère SCA, but will acquire shares as market conditions allow. Vivendi owns close to 27 percent of shares, Amber Capital has around 20 percent, and Qatar Holding, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, has roughly 13 percent.

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