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Vivendi plans to keep buying Lagardere shares

PARIS, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Vivendi plans to keep buying shares in Lagardere and is open to acquiring activist fund Amber Capital’s stake in the company, which could trigger a tender offer for the rest of the Lagardere’s stock, Vivendi said in a filing on Friday.

Vivendi, the French media group controlled by billionaire Vincent Bollore, is Lagardere’s top shareholder with a 26.7% stake.

Amber, meanwhile, owns 20% of the company, home to France’s biggest publishing house Hachette and a travel retail division.

Amber and Vivendi are seeking board representation at Lagardere and are calling for a shareholders’ meeting, which Lagardere, led by the founder’s heir Arnaud Lagardere, has so far flatly refused.

They have signed a five-year pact that includes a reciprocal right to pre-emptively buy the share each company owns in Lagardere if one of them were to sell.

“Vivendi intends to continue its purchases (of shares) ... including through the exercise ... of the rights of first offer and pre-emption granted by Amber Capital,” the Paris-based group said in a statement to French markets regulator AMF.

“Vivendi doesn’t intend to take control of Lagardere,” the group said in the same statement, but added that if it were in a position to be able to buy Amber’s shares, it would fulfil the obligation of making a bid for all Lagardere’s shares.

Under French law, crossing the 30% threshold in a company’s share capital automatically triggers a tender offer for the rest of the shares.

Loss-making Lagardere has become the unlikely target of a proxy battle between some of France’s top businessmen, after the firm’s managers sought help to fend off a campaign by Amber to shake up the company’s governance.

Bernard Arnault, who runs the world’s biggest luxury group LVMH, said last week his family holding company owned more than 5% of Lagardere, and that he was committed to the integrity of the group’s main activities. (Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Mark Potter)

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