CMA CGM Group has made headway in its €81m ($85.6m) bid to buy French daily newspaper La Provence.

The management board of La Provence decided on Monday to accept the liner giant’s offer, rival publication Le Monde reported.

CMA CGM is said to have confirmed the information.

“This puts an end to a long and difficult waiting period for employees, whose representatives wished an agreement with CMA CGM,” Le Monde quoted the company as saying.

Back in February, CMA CGM offered to buy a controlling 89% stake in La Provence. Both companies are based in Marseille — France’s second-biggest city.

La Provence, a title with a circulation of about 80,000 copies in 2020, was sold via court proceedings after the death last year of its former owner, Bernard Tapie — a controversial French media mogul.

CMA CGM’s bid exceeds the newspaper’s annual turnover of about $76m and easily exceeds the only rival offer submitted by NJJ Presse Sud, a holding controlled by French media entrepreneur Xavier Niel.

On top of the outright acquisition price, CMA CGM chief executive Rodolphe Saade also pledged to invest an additional €35m ($37m) in order to spruce up the newspaper.

When quizzed in an interview with Le Monde earlier this year about the reasons for his interest, Saade was quoted as saying: “Don’t look for any complex reasons: I read the paper and I like it. La Provence is on sale, so I went for it.”

Disputed vote?

An investment in the newspaper could safeguard about 850 jobs at Le Provence and Corse-Matin, an affiliated newspaper.

In line with booming profits during the Covid-19 pandemic, big liner companies such as CMA CGM have been eager to display social responsibility amid calls for windfall taxes to be imposed on them.

La Provence is set to become CMA CGM’s second acquisition since April when the company bid an estimated €450m to €500m to buy French logistics company Gefco. The deal is likely to save Gefco from the threat of Russian sanctions.

In a similarly motivated move, CMA CGM invested $30m in ailing compatriot Brittany Ferries last year, to help the shortsea operator recover from its loss of passenger traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, CMA CGM’s takeover of La Provence may be challenged. Only two of the five members of the newspaper’s board are said to have backed the deal on Monday.

Le Monde reported that opposing votes from the remaining three board members representing NJJ and the Tapie family were not taken into account due to “conflicts of interest” or formal reasons.