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French entrepreneur Vincent Bolloré and his media interests

This note considers French entrepreneur Vincent Bolloré and his media interests.

It covers -

* introduction
* development
* studies
* landmarks


Vincent Bolloré (1952- ) currently has major stakes in Havas, Aegis and Gaumont. In the past he has bought and sold stakes in other media groups, including Pathé.

As of late 2004 he controlled a conglomerate with an annual turnover of €5.7 billion, a stock market valuation of €2 bilion and an aggregate workforce of some 30,000. Operations included 55 ships (the 23rd largest global shipping operation), plantations in Malaysia, management of the port of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, management of the Cameroonian railways.

In 2006 Bolloré Group announced that it had taken a 6% stake in Aegis, UK owner of Europe's largest media-buying network. In the preceding year Bolloré built up a 22% stake in Havas, removed the chief executive and became non-executive chairman.

The Bolloré Group site is here.


The move on Aegis followed raids, in the style of Robert Holmes a Court, on companies such as -

* French construction, media and telecommunications conglomerate Bouygues
* cinema and television group Pathé
* Italian bank Mediobanco
* Rue Impériale
* leading steel pipe maker Vallourec
* EFTPOS manufacturer Ingenico

Typically Bolloré has quietly accumulated a stake in his targets, acquired a larger holding amid publicity and meeting statutory disclosure limits, demanded seats on the board and pushed for improved performance before exiting profitably when the share price climbs.

One commentator sniffed that whereas rival François Pinault is a major buyer of contemporary art, Bolloré collects and frames mineral water bottle labels when not adding to a major comic book collection.

The Bolloré family traces its wealth to establishment of a paper mill in 1822. By the early 1930s it controlled the world's largest exporter of cigarette papers but loss of entrepreneurial drive was reflected in reduced circumstances, with the paper operations being acquired by Edmond de Rothschild's Compagnie Financière in the 1970s. Bolloré regained control of the ailing paper company for a symbolic one franc in 1981, having completed his law degree at night school while working for Compagnie Financière during the day.

He diversified into manufacture of thin plastic film for capacitors, expanded into shipping through takeover of Delmas-Vieljeux and then into warehousing, cocoa plantations and cotton. Between 1998 and 2002 he is estimated to have made €800 million through acquisition and sale of stakes in the Rivaud bank, Bouygues, Lazard-controlled Rue Impériale and Pathé (sold to Canal Plus and Vivendi).

media holdings

Media interests include -

* a stake in French digital TV channel Direct 8
* 10% of Gaumont
* 30% of Société Française de Production (SFP) - film production
* 23.6% of Euro Media
* 75% of Streampower - leading French company for video streaming
* Paris's Mac-Mahon arthouse cinema
* radio station Radio Nouveaux Talents
* 20% of Havas
* 26% of Aegis
* free daily newspapers Direct Soir (Paris) and BretagnePlus
* 30% of free daily newspaper MatinPlus (70% by Le Monde)

Other areas of activity, as of early 2006, included -

* international logistics (via SDV Logistique Internationale and SAGA) with a workforce of 8,200 people and a network of 540 agencies in 85 countries - number 1 in France, among the six leading European logistics groups.
* surface transport, stevedoring, freight forwarding and logistics in Africa (SDV, SAGA and Transami) with a workforce of 18,000 people and a network of 115 agencies located in 43 countries
* 25.6% of steel pipe maker Vallourec
* plantation operator Socfinal Group (140,000 hectares of plantations in Asia and Africa - 90% of Socfindo (48,000 hectares of oil palms and rubber trees in Indonesia), Socalpam and Ferme Suisse and (39,000 hectares of oil palms and rubber trees in Cameroon), SOGB (16,000 hectares of rubber trees in the Ivory Coast), Socfinaf (3,000 hectares of coffee trees and roses in Kenya), along with operations in Nigeria and Liberia.
* IER - electronic ticketing, access control and RFID systems
* 90% interest in SFDM - operates the Donges-Melun-Metz oil pipeline and fuel depots at Donges, La Ferté, Vatry and Saint- Baussant
* Bolloré Energie - oil product distributor and importer active in France, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland
* SDV Logistique Internationale and Saga - surface, sea and air freight forwarding operations in 85 countries through 540 agencies
* 50% of Carena shipyard in Abidjan
* operation of Cameroon Camrail network and Sitarail railway linking Ivory Coast with Burkina Faso
* thin paper production (est 20% of global capacity for sector)
* polypropylene film for capacitors - facilities in Brittany, US and China.


Studies include Marie-Paul Virard's Le Roman Des Grands Patrons: Bernard Arnault, Vincent Bolloré, Martin Bouygues, Jean-Marie Messie, Francois Pinault (2001), Vincent Bollore: Enquete Sur Un Capitaliste Au-Dessus De Tout Soupcon (Paris: Denoel 2000) by Nathalie Raulin & Renaud Lecadre and Transport et espaces d'entreprise: les strategies africaines du groupe Bolloré (PDF) by Jean Debrie.


Bolloré group landmarks include -

1981 acquires thin paper interests from Compagnie Financière

1983 acquires French cigarette-paper company Job

1991 buys Delmas Vieljeux shipping and surface transport group

1996 gains control of plantations conglomerate Groupe Rivaud

1997 acquires 12.5% of Bouygues, challenging founding family's control

1998 sells Bouygues stake for US$210m profit

1998 acquires 20% stake in Pathé before selling a month later to Vivendi for US$220m profit

1999 gains control of Belgian shipping group AMI

1999 buys Safmarine's African shipping line SCL

1999 buys British shipping line OTAL

2000 buys 31% of Rue Impériale de Lyon (part of Lazard Frères group), later sells stake to Crédit Agricole for US$260m profit

2001 acquires 75% of Streampower

2002 buys Geis logistics group

2003 pays €170m for CDR Participations' 40.83% of Compagnie des Glénans (holding company with major stake shares in Rivaud group)

2003 sells 14.70% stake in Consortium to Unicredito and Capitalia for €106m

2003 pays US$150m for 5% stake in Mediobanca

2003 agrees to sell Socfin Plantations operations in southern peninsular Malaysia to Achi Jaya Plantations group for US$132m and Lima Blas near Kuala Lumpur to United Plantations Group for US$31m

2003 subsidiary Financière du Loch increases stake in Gaumont to 10.6%

2004 launches Radio des Nouveaux Talents

2005 increases stake in Havas to 20%

2005 buys Air Link (air logistics operator in India)

2005 sells maritime activities (ships and containers valued at US$600m) to CMA-CGM Group, forms partnership between subsidiary Delmas and CMA-CGM to run maritime agencies in Africa

2005 launches Direct 8 digital terrestrial television (DTT) channel

2006 increases stake in Aegis to 26%

2006 launches Direct Soir free newspaper