Val d’Isere for sale?

The rumour has been doing the rounds over Christmas. The Blas family are looking for a cool half Billion euros for the Sofival which controls the ski lifts of Val d’Isère, La Rosière, Valmorel and Avoriaz. The main name in the frame is the Compagnie des Alpes (CdA) which already run 8 of the 12 top French ski resorts including nearby Tignes, la Plagne and les Arcs.

face bellevarde

Some meat was put on the bones of the story during the AGM of the Adipvi (the Val d’Isère resident’s association) when Jean-François Blas, President of the STVI (Société des Téléphériques de Val d’Isère) confirmed that there had been discussions between the Sofival and a number of possible suitors including the CdA to buy the STVI and the other resorts controlled by the group: Sermma (Société des Remontées Mécaniques de Morzine-Avoriaz), DSV (Domaine Skiable de Valmorel) and the DSR (Domaine Skiable de la Rosière). Blas told the Dauphiné Libéré newspaper that talks were at a very early stage and that a number of groups are interested but the CdA is a preferred bidder. However there are a number of sticking points. In particular the Blas family wants to remain involved in the running of the STVI and is looking for a partnership with the CdA, possibly with a place on the board.

On the 19th of December the Compagnie des Alpes posted a record turnover of 456 million euros, up 21.8% on the previous year due to the purchase of Serre-Chevalier in 2004 and five new leisure parks. The increase on existing business was just 0.8%. The group has diversified out of ski resorts recently. Last year just 57% of the turnover came from skiing. The CdA has concentrated on getting more profit from its existing business. A strategy that seems to have paid off. Last year net profit was 41.1 millions euros, an increase of +33.8%. The CdA’s share price has risen nearly ten euros since the results were announced to stand at 69.90 today, a increase of 17%. CdA recently took over the ski domain of Prorel, another part of the Serre Chevalier jigsaw and announced that it wants to acquire further high altitude domains and increase its shareholding in the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc and Saas-Fee Bergbahnen. It also has a sizeable shareholding in Téléverbier.

The link-up with Sofival, the number two French lift operator, would pose competitions problems. In the Tarentaise only the lifts of Pralognan (Remy Loisirs), Val Thorens (SETAM) and Courchevel (Société des Trois Vallées) would be outside their control. This has implications for lift pass prices which have risen rapidly over the last few years.

In what could be a model for taking a majority stake in Sofival in 2000 the CdA acquired British run Méribel Alpina, founded by the Lindsay family. Méribel Alpina runs the lifts of Méribel and Flaine. As part of the deal David Lindsay, son of the founder, received shares in the CdA. Sofival acquired 75% of the Société Domaine Skiable de Valmorel from Pierre and Vacances in September 2001 for 6.5 million euros. The STVI’s concession on the Val d’Isère is due to expire in 2018. The groups expects to make an official statement in the next few days. 

Posted by davidof on Monday, 01 January, 2007 at 12:02 AM

here is the press release:-

Compagnie des Alpes (CDA) is holding exclusive talks with Sofival and its main shareholders in view of merging the ski area management activities of the two groups.

With 3.7 million skier-days and consolidated sales of 80 million euros in 2005, Groupe Sofival’s ski areas (Val d’Isere, Avoriaz, Valmorel and La Rosiere) offer complimentary qualities and dimensions to CDA’s existing network of ski areas. The alliance is foreseen in a business environment with a shared vision of ski area management, opening a path to greater value creation for both companies.

Further information will be made public during the coming weeks if these discussions lead to a firm agreement.

Compagnie des Alpes is a major player in the field of leisure production in Europe. The company operates 35 leisure sites including 14 leading ski areas located in the Alps (including Tignes, Les Arcs, La Plagne, les Menuires, Meribel) and 21 leisure parks (including Parc Asterix, Grevin, Walibi), in seven European countries: France, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK. For the last fiscal year, ending September 30, 2006, Company sales were EUR456 m, and net attributable income EUR41.1 m.

For more information:

We read “greater value creation” as taking wintersports fans, shaking them upside down and seeing what change drops out.

Eric Guilpart, marketing director at the CdA has said that future growth is going to come from foreign not French skiers, another sign that French resorts are now too expensive for locals.

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 03 January, 2007  at 01:02 PM

The talks are around a share swap, similar to the acquisition of Meribel Alpina, with the CdA taking over Sofival’s ski areas in return for 10% of the capital of a now expanded CdA.

Posted by davidof on  Friday, 12 January, 2007  at 09:50 AM

France 3 Television has interviewed Denis Bouchet, Avoriaz representative of the Haute-Savoie council is worried about the size of the CdA with 27% of the French ski market for a turnover of 259 million euros. He views the company as little more than a money making machine where the locals, workers and station have little importance compared to profits.

Ramond Monay, directory of Champery in Switzerland is more sanguine. He thinks the CdA could bring a lot of experience to the area and help renew and extend the existing lift infrastructure.

Posted by davidof on  Sunday, 21 January, 2007  at 05:22 PM

Talks are continuing between the Compagnie des Alpes and Sofival around the idea of the CdA taking a majority shareholding in the Val d’Isere ski lift operation (STVI) as well as minority shareholdings in Avoriaz, La Rosière and Valmorel. In return Sofival would get an 8% stake in the Compagnie des Alpes. Talks should conclude in the second quarter of 2007.

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 22 March, 2007  at 11:38 AM

Talks have moved towards a conclusion. The CdA is on course to acquire a 60% stake in Sofival on the 1st of October 2007 with the option to acquire further shares at a later date.

As a point of interest the fourteen largest ski resorts in France represent 50% of turnover. With the Sofival acquisition the CdA will control 11 of those resorts. Only Val Thorens, Courchevel, Alpe d’Huez and les Deux Alpes remain outside the “family”. It is a very powerful position for the CdA.

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 25 April, 2007  at 08:53 AM
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