France without finance dailies as competitors strike

PARIS, June 25, 2007 (AFP) - For the first time ever, France was without either of its two financial daily newspapers Monday, June 25 as staff at Les Echos and La Tribune staged strikes over the acquisitions strategy of billionaire Bernard Arnault.


Bernard Arnault, president of LVMH - Photo : Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Arnault's luxury goods house LVMH is in negotiations to buy Les Echos from the media conglomerate Pearson, which also owns the Financial Times. At the same time LVMH is reported to be trying to sell La Tribune, which it has owned since 1993.

Staff at Les Echos oppose the purchase because they fear for their journalistic independence if Arnault -- a friend of President Nicolas Sarkozy and a major player in the French business world -- is their proprietor.

The historic newspaper -- founded in 1908 -- is one of the few in France to make a profit, and Arnault is believed to have been eyeing it for several years.

On Thursday LVMH announced that it was in exclusive negotiations with Pearson to buy the newspaper for a reported price of 250 million euros (336 milion dolar), triggering a first strike by Les Echos staff on Friday.

"We don't have anything against Arnault in person. It is a question of conflicting interests and the pluralism of the press," said journalists' representative Vincent de Feligonde.

Staff at La Tribune staged a separate strike after rumours circulated that Arnault planned to sell off the paper if he acquired Les Echos. La Tribune has been steadily losing sales since 2002.

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