A dramatic turn of events this Friday morning in the audiovisual sector. The CMA CGM group, owned by Franco-Lebanese billionaire Rodolphe Saadé, has just announced that it has signed a promise to purchase with a view to acquiring 100% of the capital of Altice Media (BFMTV, BFM Business, BFM Régions, RMC Story and RMC radio).

“This operation would allow the CMA CGM Group to constitute, in the long term, a benchmark Media Sector with information, sports and entertainment content and whose editorial project, bringing pluralism, independence and journalistic ethics , would be focused on the major challenges of economic, societal and territorial transformation,” writes the French shipowner in a press release. This acquisition would be carried out jointly by the CMA CGM Group and by Merit France, at 80% and 20% respectively, on the basis of an enterprise value of 1.55 billion euros.

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In a letter sent this morning to the Altice France teams, which Le Figaro obtained, its CEO Arthur Dreyfuss praises the merits of Rodolphe Saadé: “We can be delighted that a new entrepreneur, at the head of a group historic family, anchored in our territory and endowed with a long-term industrial vision, is part of the continuity of Patrick Drahi and Altice. This is excellent news for preserving our very particular DNA, made of audacity and pragmatism which has characterized us from the beginning,” he writes.

According to our information, Rodolphe Saadé had expressed his interest as early as spring 2023 with Patrick Drahi, CEO of the Altice group, to buy his media division. Last summer, the management of Altice Media expected 2 billion euros to enter into negotiations. Other French tycoons, such as the owner of Free, Xavier Niel, or that of the LVMH empire, Bernard Arnault, and even the M6 ​​group had also looked at the file.

Weakened on the financial markets, cornered by a debt of 60 billion euros and shaken by a corruption scandal, Patrick Drahi finally showed himself ready to offload his jewels in the media for an amount “which remains very high” , notes an investment banker… And the very popular BFMTV, which remains the leading continuous news channel in France, even if the gap in audience share with CNews, owned by Vincent Bolloré, has narrowed .

“I am happy for BFM and Altice Média because to be associated with CMA CGM, they are really good people,” comments Xavier Niel to Le Figaro.

The sale of Altice Media to CMA CGM, which will have to obtain the necessary regulatory authorizations, should be finalized during the summer of 2024. The timing must in particular be compatible with the renewal of the TNT frequency of BFM TV while the gendarme of audiovisual (Arcom) launched the renewal process in February for 15 DTT frequencies.

For his part, Rodolphe Saadé, who has a direct channel with President Emmanuel Macron, has been gradually building a media empire over the past two years through his media subsidiary Whynot Media. It owns the Marseille newspaper La Provence, Corse Matin, the La Tribune group (the economic site and the newspaper La Tribune Dimanche), as well as stakes in the capital of the audiovisual group M6 (11% and a seat on the supervisory board) and the Raw digital media. This division boasts a turnover of 78 million euros and has 900 employees, including 280 journalists.