Spanish Newspaper Group Considers Investment in France's Le Monde

By: (AP) Grupo Prisa, publisher of Spanish newspaper El Pais, is considering whether to take part in the recapitalization of troubled French daily Le Monde, the Madrid-based company said today.

"We're talking with Le Monde but right now we're just talking on informal and friendly terms," Prisa spokeswoman Patricia Gomez said by phone.

Gomez was speaking after French press reports suggested Prisa -- whose full name is Promotora de Informaciones SA -- could invest up to 25 million euros ($33 million) in Le Monde's planned recapitalization.

Presenting the Madrid-based company's financial results earlier Friday, Prisa CEO Juan Luis Cebrian stressed the company's expansion plans and said talks were under way with Le Monde SA.

But he said no offer was yet on the table to increase Prisa's 0.8 percent stake in the publisher of the respected French evening title.

Gomez also declined to elaborate on the discussions, but added: "We definitely have the cash to plan for any sort of expansion that would be interesting for us."

French defense-to-media group Lagardere SA has agreed to invest 25 million euros ($33 million) in Le Monde in exchange for a 15 percent stake, but reports suggest the paper needs to raise 50 million euros ($65 million) to stay afloat -- about the sum it reportedly lost in 2004.

The newspaper's management presented a recapitalization plan to board members two weeks ago and had hoped to unveil a deal this month. But a staff meeting at which a more detailed plan was to have been presented yesterday was postponed to March 8.

Along with other French titles, Le Monde has been squeezed between dwindling circulation and advertising revenue on the one hand and expensive, heavily unionized printing services on the other. It is not the first to have looked for new investors.

Last month, staff at Liberation -- another illustrious left-wing daily -- voted to allow financier Edouard de Rothschild to take a 37 percent stake in their paper in return for a 20 million euro ($26 million) cash injection. Defense tycoon Serge Dassault also took control of conservative broadsheet Le Figaro last year.


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