EC approves Lagardere takeover of Sportfive

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BRUSSELS -- The European Commission gave the green light Thursday for French media group Lagardere's €865 million ($1.1 billion) takeover of Sportfive Group, the French sports marketing and broadcast rights agency.

The EC said the acquisition would not significantly impede effective competition in Europe and there were no major overlaps between the activities of Lagardere and Sportfive.

The EC investigation also looked at whether Lagardere's non-controlling stake in the French Canal Plus pay TV Group, which has a strong position on the French sports broadcasting market, but concluded that the link was unlikely to favor either Canal Plus or Sportfive.

Lagardere's two main business areas are media and high technologies. Its media activities include broadcasting, book publishing, press, distribution and retailing services, and multimedia services. Sportfive trades sports broadcasting rights, especially soccer, and marketing services for sport events.

Sportfive was put up for sale by its three owners, RTL Group, private equity group Advent International and Goldman Sachs Group. The agency holds the TV rights to some of the world's most high-profile sporting events, including the Euro 2008 soccer championship.

Lagardere said its chief executive Arnaud Lagardere, a 20% shareholder of French pay-broadcaster Canal Plus, is an avid sports fan and keen to enter the sports market. Last month, Lagardere announced it would combine its magazine, audiovisual and digital publishing activities with all advertising-related domains moved into one expanded unit that will eventually also cover sports rights, combining its strengths in the media in order to take up the challenge of digital.
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