Vivendi Mulls IPO for US Media Properties

10 September 2002

Vivendi Universal’s US media properties appear increasingly to be veering toward separate IPOs, a solution said to be favoured by many managers of the stateside businesses.

The assets – among them Hollywood studio Universal Pictures, a 10% stake in US satellite operator EchoStar Communications plus a number of cable channels and theme parks – see discrete IPOs as the best solution for selling the businesses [and, say cynics, a formula that will enrich them personally].

In a recent interview with a number of unidentified VU managers, the Financial Times learned of their enthusiasm for the individual IPO route. As one executive pointed out, there is by no means an obvious fit between some of the units; nor have the expected synergies from the internet yet come to pass.

According to another insider, even though Vivendi Universal originally planned to retain certain US assets, it now “looks like everything is potentially for sale”.

In any event, a ‘for sale’ ticket has already been hung over educational publishing unit Houghton Mifflin [WAMN: 20-Aug-02], for which a number of “ready cash buyers” are jostling for position.

The Franco-American media giant, until this summer the fiefdom of high-profile shopaholic chairman/ceo Jean-Marie Messier, is now beset by a severe liquidity crisis. His successor Jean-René Fourtou is currently dismantling the ramshackle empire in a desperate bid for cash.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff