Vivendi to Focus on Telecoms as US Media Auction Begins

01 May 2003

Vivendi Universal is to exit the US media industry and focus on telecommunications.

That is the long-term vision of chairman/ceo Jean-Réné Fourtou, who has finally confirmed that the media giant will sell its US media assets, collectively grouped under the Vivendi Universal Entertainment umbrella. Included in the sale – to be completed by year-end – are Universal Pictures, Universal theme parks and cable-TV broadcaster USA Networks.

“We’re in negotiations with several potential buyers to sell VUE, in its entirety or in parts, for cash or a mix of cash and shares in a bigger, more competitive entity,” Fourtou revealed. “Even the latter option would imply completely exiting VUE eventually.”

The US asset sale comes as little surprise following months of speculation that VUE was to be disposed of in some way. The move largely ends the vision of a media and technology empire that brought the group to the brink of collapse under acquisition-crazed former boss Jean-Marie Messier.

However, it is not clear whether Universal Music Group will be included in the sale; Fourtou hinted that it may retain this unit, possibly to avoid a hefty tax liability [WAMN: 10-Feb-03]. Vivendi will also retain its French pay-TV unit Canal Plus Group.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff