France firm Vivendi jumps into obstacle race for Dailymotion

By Marianne Barriaux, AFP

PARIS–France’s Vivendi said Tuesday it had entered into ��exclusive talks�� to buy 80 percent of Dailymotion after Paris thwarted attempts by Yahoo and a Hong Kong telecoms giant to buy a stake in the video-sharing site. The offer from a French firm is likely to be more palatable to the government, in a country that is struggling to foster homegrown high-tech champions at a global level as its numerous start-ups often end up being snapped up by foreign companies. The YouTube equivalent, which belongs to telecoms group Orange, has long generated interest from companies far and wide but the French government has fervently protected its national technology jewel, saying it would prefer to see it remain in European hands. Quick-off-the-mark, Vivendi announced Tuesday it had made an offer to Orange for Dailymotion �X one of the 100 most-visited websites worldwide. The two firms said later Tuesday in a joint statement they were ��in exclusive talks concerning the acquisition by Vivendi of 80 percent of the capital in Dailymotion for 217 million euros�� (US$235 million).

The price would value the whole of Dailymotion at around 265 million euros. ‘European champion’ Preferred

France caused a furor in 2013 when it blocked a bid by U.S. giant Yahoo to acquire Dailymotion. Yahoo Inc. had been in talks to buy a 75-percent stake in Dailymotion, but the government, which holds almost 25 percent of Orange, had insisted on a 50-50 split. Then Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg, a maverick widely viewed as anti-business who has since been forced out of the government, had said he blocked the deal because the U.S. firm was seeking to ��devour�� the French company. His move dealt a blow to France’s business image at a time when the struggling country was trying to attract investment and kickstart a moribund economy. Then last week Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker viewed as pro-business, raised eyebrows when he came out against exclusive talks between Orange and the PCCW conglomerate owned by the son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing. He acknowledged that the PCCW offer ��could be a good option,�� but ��I want to be sure that we don’t have a European champion that we can build onto this platform,�� he told French television.