New shareholders at La Liberté

The Fribourg Cantonal Bank and the energy company Groupe E take a stake in the Fribourg Paulus printing house and the daily newspaper La Liberté. The only existing shareholders, the Paulus sisters, sell them a third of their shares.

With the sale of the shares to the two companies from the region, the sisters of the Pauluswerk hope that the spirit and independence of the Fribourg daily will be preserved. This emerges from a letter from the sister community published in La Liberté on Wednesday.

Three years ago, the sisters announced their intention to withdraw from the newspaper business in the medium term. The reason for this is the ever increasing average age of the sisters and the lack of new blood.

The headquarters of the order in Rome still has to formally give the green light for the sale of shares, as St. Paul Holding announced in a statement on Wednesday. Under the umbrella of the holding, the Sisters of St. Paul have united several companies.

No rescue in the crisis

When the time comes, the Fribourg Cantonal Bank and Groupe E will take over the block of shares in equal shares. To enter the newspaper business, the two companies have founded a holding company called Sofripa.

The publisher of La Liberté, Thierry Mauron, writes in Wednesday's edition that the company's financial situation is healthy. It is not a question of rescuing a daily newspaper in crisis. Editor-in-chief Louis Ruffieux is satisfied that decisions on the future of La Liberté will continue to be made in Fribourg. The newspaper is published in about 40'000 copies daily.

Exclude influence

Dominique Gachoud, director of Groupe E, said on Wednesday when asked that the energy company was not interested in acquiring a communication tool. The motivation for joining La Liberté is to ensure its continued existence. The company expects a certain profit from its investment.

Martial Pasquier, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Paulusdruckerei and La Liberté, also said the two companies ruled out any influence on the content of the newspaper.

Both Groupe E and Fribourg Cantonal Bank are semi-public companies: The Canton of Fribourg holds 100 percent of the bank's files and 78.5 percent of those of Groupe E.

Additional opening planned

The sale of one-third of the shares to the bank and the energy company is only the first step towards a further opening of the shareholder base, according to the St. Paul Holding announcement. The two new shareholders have agreed to take over a second third of the shares together with other partners. These partners can be companies, but also the general public.

Further offers rejected

The French Hersant Group and another company, which has not been named, also expressed interest in the Pauluswerk sisters. This was not Tamedia, which will print La Liberté in Bern from January. Both bids were not considered. 

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