ZURICH May 16 Swisscom upped the
stakes in a battle for PubliGroupe on Friday, topping
an existing bid for the Swiss advertising firm with a 502
million Swiss franc ($563.19 million) offer.
The Swiss national telecoms provider had already bid 230
million francs for PubliGroupe's shares in two local directory
businesses, but expanded that bid for the entirety of the firm
in order to clinch control of local.ch, which provides
information on phone numbers.
Swisscom's offer trumps by one-third a rival bid for
PubliGroupe by Swiss media company Tamedia AG, which
last month launched 150-franc-per-share offer valuing the
advertising group at around 375 million francs.
"Swisscom's aim is to assume full control of local.ch and to
continue developing its strategic directories business in the
existing market environment," Swisscom said in a statement.
PubliGroupe said it would evaluate both companies' offers,
and asked shareholders to await an official recommendation from
its board before tendering shares to either bidder.
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.
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 is already PubliGroupe's largest shareholder with a
17.6 percent stake, after acquiring shares held by U.S.-based
fund manager Tweedy Browne as well as other shares this week.
Swisscom said it would not exercise influence in
PubliGroupe's minority shareholdings in media companies SNP
Societe Neuchateloise de Presse SA, Suedostschweiz Presse und
Print, or Rhone-Media SA - all regional Swiss publishing houses
- if the deal is concluded, and would dispose of them.
The Bern-based company said it will consider all options for
the other shareholdings. The company said it won't stand in the
way of the previously announced sale of FPH Freie Presse Holding
AG to Aktiengesellschaft fuer die Neue Zuercher Zeitung, which
publishes the Swiss daily NZZ.
($1 = 0.8914 Swiss Francs)
(Reporting By Katharina Bart, editing by David Evans)