Vivendi Cuts US Asset Auction to NBC, Bronfman

28 August 2003

Just two bidders are left in the auction of Vivendi Universal’s US entertainment portfolio.

After a board meeting in Paris earlier this week, the media mammoth announced it would continue negotiations with TV network NBC and a consortium headed by Edgar Bronfman Junior, whose family formerly owned the assets as part of Seagram.

NBC – a division of General Electric – wants to merge with the units to produce a combined group controlled by GE but in which Vivendi would maintain a stake.

Analysts regard the distribution power of NBC’s broadcast stations as a good fit with Vivendi’s entertainment assets and tip this bid to triumph. However, the network’s insistence on an all-stock deal may hand the initiative to Bronfman, who is proposing to buy a majority holding in the entertainment businesses.

Vivendi also hinted at a third option, saying it was considering aligning the assets – which include Universal Studios, cable-TV networks and theme parks – with another company. It would then initiate an initial public offering to create a new, larger entity. However, many observers dismissed this as a negotiating tactic – not least because Vivendi failed to name any potential partners.

Whichever option succeeds, it seems certain that Vivendi will retain a stake in the assets. It is also clear that it will fail to make the $14 billion (€12.8bn; £8.9bn) in cash it set out to gain from the auction, though the all-stock NBC offer could give the units an equivalent notional value.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff