PARIS: Czech billionaire businessman Daniel Kretinsky has agreed to finance the loss-making French left-leaning daily Liberation until it breaks even, the paper's owners said Tuesday.

Kretinsky, already heavily invested in French media as owner of Elle magazine and part-owner of the daily Le Monde, will lend Liberation 14 million euros (dollars) to help stem losses until its projected breakeven in 2026, Presse Independante said.

In addition, Kretinsky's foundation will inject one million euros into the Fund for the Support of Independent Media (FDPI), the majority-owners of Liberation, according to an internal announcement made by Liberation's Managing Director Denis Olivennes.

Tuesday’s statement quoted Kretinsky as saying he was “happy to participate in this way to the continued existence of an independent newspaper that is essential to democratic debate”.

Despite increasing its circulation by more than 10 percent over the past year, Liberation has been unable to stem losses it blames mostly on falling advertising sales during the Covid pandemic.

It now expects to return to profit in 2026, compared to an earlier target of 2023.

Its loss on ordinary operations narrowed to 7.9 million euros in 2021 from 12.3 million euros a year earlier.

Kretinsky's high-profile investments in France include minority stakes in retail chain Casino, and in the electronics, books and media group Fnac Darty.

His last big acquisition in France was the historic 18th-century Chateau du Marais castle outside Paris, adding a luxury hotel project to his existing French media and retailing empire.

The net worth of Kretinsky, 47, is estimated at $5 billion by Forbes magazine, founded on media and energy in the Czech Republic. - AFP