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Carlyle Group makes first European exit

The Carlyle Group has made the first exit from its maiden European fund, the EURO1 billion Carlyle Europe Partners. Carlyle has sold its 40 per cent stake in French newspaper publishing group, Le Figaro to the group’s majority shareholder, Socpresse. Socpresse will now own 100 per cent of Le Figaro, acquiring all of the shares and convertible bonds owned by Carlyle.

Socpresse is Group Hersant’s holding company and is 70 per cent owned by the Hersant family and 30 per cent by Serge Dassault, who acquired his share in the group last month. Carlyle acquired 40 per cent of Le Figaro Group in July 1999 through a combination of shares and convertible bonds. At the time of the acquisition, the group was valued at around EURO500 million. Carlyle originally invested in Le Figaro to assist Socpresse with the restructuring of its balance sheet. Yves de Chaisemartin, president and Michel Senamaud, CEO of Socpresse-Le Figaro, said: “Our partnership with Carlyle came at a critical time for Socpresse and the group is now in strong shape. Carlyle proved to be a most valuable partner.”

Le Figaro group includes Le Figaro newspaper, as well as Madame Figaro, Figaro the magazine and two property papers. It now forms part of the Socpresse stable of publications, which includes TV Magazine, Le Progres, Le Dauphine, Presse Ocean, Paris Turf and Week-End.

Le Figaro was Carlyle’s second buyout investment in France and the firm’s third in Europe. Jean-Pierre Millet, managing director of The Carlyle Group, said: “Carlyle is pleased with its relationship with Le Figaro management team which demonstrated great talent in leading one of the finest publications of the French press.” He added that the terms of Carlyle’s exit have been very well-received by investors. “They meet expectations set at the time of the acquisition,” he said.

Around EURO650 million has been invested so far from Carlyle Europe Partners buyout fund in 14 investments including its two other French investments, Lafarge Speciality Materials and Groupe Genoyer.