Drahi ready to sell Libération, L’Express, L’Expansion to SFR …

The white knight? Really? By seizing Liberation in 2014 and the title of the Belgian group Roularta in 2015, including L’Express is the nacelle head, Patrick Drahi, head of Altice, parent SFR, appeared in great savior the tricolor press.

“My adventure in the press, it is completely anecdotal. I tell you the story because it’s funny: in an interview with a journalist of Liberation, the girl said to me, ‘But sir Drahi, you will spend 14 billion to buy SFR, we at Liberation, one needs that 14 million to save us. ‘ It puzzled me, I must admit. And at the end of the interview, I said, ‘take the folder’, because if we could actually save a title without any conviction or media, nor political, to a thousandth of the money invested in SFR, I think we were doing something good, “explained the businessman May 27, 2015 during his hearing by the Committee on economic Affair of the National Assembly.

Do not lose money

Do good. It is so rare in the business world that the arrival of Patrick Drahi can only be welcomed, right? Obviously, Patrick Drahi is not a patron. He did not build his empire and fortune by multiplying acts of philanthropy. He has every intention that these investments in the press, grouped in Altice Media Group (L’Express, Liberation, Strategy, I24news chain Hair Cosmetics Paris or Mag) that holds almost entirely through its personal holding company, are profitable. Or at least do not make him lose money.

“From the moment I began investing in this press activity, which is a very difficult activity, speed drop, not only in France, there is necessarily need for the long term. This is not to 14 million [in Liberation, Editor’s note] and to realize two years later that the newspaper is again on the brink. The only way to create a sustainable business is to develop, “stated Patrick Drahi before MPs.

Investments “in dribs and drabs”

In short, anything but stagnation … But for now, it is rather the restructuring that is rife in Libération, L’Express Expansion or where editors based visibly. “It is becoming difficult to concentrate on our work when the days are punctuated by the departure of pots,” says a journalist of L’Express. And next investments? “They are the dropper, says a journalist with Liberation. There are no great title development plan or modernization of editorial tools. This is worrying: the numeric example, it has already vis-à-vis the World or delay of Figaro, and it is feared that the gap is widening … ”

Until the strategy Altice Media Group to become profitable, Patrick Drahi does not seem willing to risk too much on a personal level. Reportedly, Patrick Drahi seriously considering selling these press titles … SFR, its operator in France. At what price? still difficult to know. Asked by La Tribune, Altice does not comment. In an astute businessman, it is reasonable to think that Patrick Drahi realizes a gain by separating its securities. For the record, it has invested over 30 million euros in the release. As for the cost of purchase of shares of Roularta, it did not exceed 10 million.

Makeup cash

Rest by selling Altice Media Group, Patrick Drahi will back cash to the parent. As for the employees of the operator to the red square, the unions denounce 900 non-replaced departures between November 2014 and December 2015, not sure that such a maneuver everyone agrees … “It will still be on our back “knock out a union official. “Once again, we just get money from us to bail Altice.” I must say that recently, SFR paid 2.5 billion in dividends to its shareholders. The operation, in particular, financed by a loan of 1.6 billion euros, was mechanically possible to make up a lot of money to Altice, which owns 70% of the operator.

Pressed to repay a total net debt of 35.5 billion euros on 31 December 2015 which will soon be added a further 8 billion due to the acquisition of Cablevision in the US, Altice has also already had to solve was to climb some rates of SFR, even see subscribers spin to the competition.

crosshairs in the convergence

On substance, a home Altice Media Group SFR would be in line with the strategy of Patrick Drahi, which focuses on the “convergence” between telecom and media to differentiate. The idea? Fill the pipe with SFR Liberation contents, L’Express, L’Expansion, Strategies, chain information i24 News and those of NextRadio TV group (BFM-TV, RMC …), since it controls its association with Alain Weill. According to financial analyst, it is easier to play the convergence of card when the operator directly controls a media portfolio to offer customers. On 5 May, SFR will also launch an option “SFR Press.” For 19.99 euros per month, it will refer to “unlimited” most Altice Media Group newspapers. Anyway, this strategy seems to confirm that Patrick Drahi, the press is not an end in itself. But rather a magnet for customers and a source of enrichment.