* Swisscom wants full ownership of online directories
* Follows Tamedia's offer for all of PubliGroupe last week
* PubliGroupe shares rise over 10 pct to 5-1/2 year high
* Tamedia declines to say whether it will raise its bid
(Adds Tamedia comment, updates shares)
By Caroline Copley
ZURICH, April 25 Telecoms group Swisscom
said it had submitted a non-binding offer worth 230
million Swiss francs ($261 million) to buy PubliGroupe's
shares in two local directory businesses, creating the
potential for a takeover battle.
The bid from Switzerland's national telecoms provider comes
on the heels of last week's public tender offer for all shares
in PubliGroupe from Swiss media company Tamedia AG. The
offer of 150 Swiss francs per share values the advertising group
at around 375 million francs.
Swisscom's offer, which excludes planned dividend payments,
is not for the group but for shares in LTV Yellow Pages Ltd and
Swisscom Directories Ltd that it does not already own. Its aim
is to gain full control of website local.ch, which provides
information on phone numbers.
Shares in PubliGroupe jumped over 10 percent to 175.70
francs, their highest since the end of September 2008. The
stock, which had already risen 25 percent since Tamedia
announced its takeover offer on April 17, was up 9.7 percent at
174.0 francs by 1040 GMT.
At the heart of both bids is a battle for control of
PubliGroupe's online directory platforms, which stand to benefit
as the market for digital advertising grows.
"With this takeover offer for local.ch (..) Swisscom is
getting in Tamedia's way," Notenstein analysts wrote in a note.
"For, like Swisscom, Tamedia's public offer on April 17
zeroes in on local.ch, the core of PubliGroupe, in order to
strengthen its own directory business."
The telecoms operator owns 51 percent of Swisscom
Directories, of which local.ch is a subsidiary, and 49 percent
of LTV Yellow Pages Ltd, with the remaining share holdings
belonging to PubliGroupe.
The three companies, which operate under the brand local.ch,
generated a combined revenue of 200 million francs last year.
Tamedia shares were flat at 114.0 francs, while Swisscom
dipped 0.1 percent to 524.0 francs.
A spokesman for Tamedia declined to say whether the media
group would raise its bid following Swisscom's offer.
"We will include Swisscom's bid in our considerations and
publish our offer prospectus by the end of May at the latest,"
the spokesman said.
Analysts at ZKB said Swisscom had emerged as a "possible
white knight" to defend PubliGroupe against Tamedia's unfriendly
They said Swisscom's offer represented a premium of 76
million francs over what they consider fair value for the
PubliGroupe recently restructured its business, selling its
loss-making media sales business Publicitas to Germany's
Aurelius earlier this month.
The company said at the time its sales from digital
products, which include local.ch and marketing network Zanox,
would make up around 80 percent of its revenue.
In a separate statement, PubliGroupe said its board would
carefully consider Swisscom's offer along with last week's
tender bid from Tamedia.
A deal would require the approval of PubliGroupe's
shareholders and the Competition Commission, Swisscom said.
Media companies are looking to new revenue streams as sales
of traditional newspapers dwindle.
Tamedia, which publishes the national daily TagesAnzeiger,
said it was looking to strengthen its position in the
directories business by gaining access to local.ch.
It already owns a 75 percent stake in search.ch, the leading
directory and information platform in the Swiss market. Tamedia
said the two platforms serve 4.8 million users per month.
($1 = 0.8824 Swiss Francs)
(Additional reportng by Ruppert Pretterklieber; Editing by Jane
Baird and Sophie Walker)