PARIS, March 20 (Reuters) - Arnaud Lagardere, the chief executive of media-to-aerospace conglomerate Lagardere , has sold 8 million euros worth of shares in the company his father founded.
The sales took place in five lots between March 12 and 16, according to filings made public by France's stock market regulator on Tuesday.
Arnaud Lagardere has sold 346,653 shares, which represents 0.26 percent of the company's total shares of 131,133,286.
Before the sales, Arnaud Lagardere owned directly and indirectly 9.62 percent of the company, or 12,610,893 shares, according to the company's annual report at year-end 2010.
Around the same time that Arnaud Lagardere was selling his shares, the sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority was increasing its stake in the group to 12.8 percent from roughly 10 percent before. Qatar is now its biggest shareholder.
Asked for details of the share sales, a spokesman for the company sent the following emailed statement: "The share sales of recent days done for Arnaud Lagardere were part of the unwinding of a financing package put into place by BNP-Paribas in 2004 at the settlement of his father's inheritance and application of the corresponding contract."
The spokesman added that Arnaud Lagardere had signed an authorisation for a planned share sale on September 30, 2011, of which the AMF had been informed.
Jean-Luc Lagardere, the founder of the company, died in 2003 after spending several decades stitching together the company that bears his name.
Lagardere is now a leader in the publishing business via its Hachette Books division, owns 7.5 percent of European aerospace group EADS, and is also in the radio and magazine business, as well as owning a chain of travel retail stores.
The group had a tumultuous 2011 in which it was forced to issue multiple profit warnings and take a huge write-down on its fledgling sports management business, which is the creation of Arnaud Lagardere.
Investors worried about the group's direction and management have shaved off more than one-third of its market capitalisation since January 2011. The shares closed up 0.32 percent to 23.70 euros per share on Tuesday. (Reporting by Leila Abboud; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)