Lagardere says will bid for Stephen King publisher Simon & Schuster

FILE PHOTO: The logo of French media group Lagardere is seen at the group's shareholders meeting in Paris, France, May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - French publishing and media group Lagardere LAGA.PA, which is caught up in a battle among its shareholders, said on Thursday it was considering a bid for Simon & Schuster, the publisher behind novelists including Stephen King and Annie Proulx.

ViacomCBS Inc said in March it was exploring options for the unit.

Lagardere, which already owns book publishing houses including Hachette, said the group faced what was likely to be a competitive bidding process, but it was keen on the purchase.

“Of course we are interested in the acquisition of S&S,” Arnaud Nourry, who runs Lagardere’s publishing unit, told analysts after the broader group reported a sharp revenue fall and a first-half loss of 481 million euros.

“We won’t go crazy,” Chief Executive Arnaud Lagardere said of the Simon & Schuster bid.

The coronavirus pandemic hurt some of Lagardere’s other businesses such as travel retail especially hard as tourists flows dried up.

Some of France’s richest businessmen recently closed ranks around Lagardere, which is locked in a battle with shareholder and activist hedge fund Amber Capital to streamline the company and boost its stock market performance.

Bernard Arnault, who runs luxury goods group LVMH LVMH.PA, is taking a 25% stake in Lagardere Capital & Management (LCM), the personal holding company of Arnaud Lagardere.

Vivendi's VIV.PA Vincent Bollore, meanwhile, has bought directly into Lagardere, raising speculation over whether the business will end up being carved up between the billionaires.

Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic, Writing by Sarah White