May 28, 2014 / 11:36 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Lagardere targets growth, downplays Amazon row

* Expects 3 pct annual revenue growth by 2018

* Targets “aggressive” but “not unattainable” - analysts

* Publishing arm seeking quick end to Amazon dispute (Adds background, analyst comment, Amazon)

By Gwénaëlle Barzic

PARIS, May 28 (Reuters) - French media group Lagardere has targeted organic annual revenue growth of more than 3 percent through to 2018, helped by new markets and online sales, and said a dispute with online retailer Amazon would not affect 2014 sales.

The family-founded company with 10 percent shareholder Arnaud Lagardere at the helm has recently sold off several low-growth businesses as it seeks to address zero or negative organic growth over the past five quarters.

Analysts at brokerage Gilbert Dupont described the targets as “aggressive” but “not unattainable”.

Lagardere also expects to achieve average growth in recurring earnings before interest and tax of about 5 percent a year through to 2018, the company said at Wednesday’s investor briefing on its post-divestment strategy.

“The Lagardere group is entering a phase in which it will target faster growth, mainly through an organic growth and innovation strategy, especially in the digital sector,” it said in a statement, adding that “targeted acquisitions” are a possibility.

Late on Tuesday, Amazon said it was preparing for a long battle with Lagardere’s publishing arm, Hachette Book Group, over a contract dispute in which it has curtailed sales of some of the publisher’s books.

“Though we remain hopeful and are working hard to come to a resolution as soon as possible, we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon,” Amazon said in a statement posted online.

By contrast, Hachette’s chief Arnaud Nourry said he hopes for an early end to the dispute, details of which have not been revealed, adding that it should not affect online sales this year.

“All our energy is dedicated to finding a solution with Amazon, as with any other retailer,” he said at the investor presentation. “I hope it will be off in a few weeks.”

Amazon has been buying fewer print books from Hachette and last week removed an option to pre-order Hachette titles due to be be published in the future.

Lagardere shares were little changed on Wednesday, up 0.25 percent to 26.31 euros at 1110 GMT. (Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic and James Regan; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by David Goodman)

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