Five remain in Vivendi Universal’s US asset auction after oil billionaire Marvin Davis was told his bid wasn’t high enough.

Davis kicked off the bidding war for the entertainment portfolio late last year [WAMN: 22-Nov-02], but has been told his consortium will play no further part in the auction unless it significantly hikes its offer.

That leaves five suitors: cable group Liberty Media, movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a consortium led by Vivendi board member Edgar Bronfman Junior, General Electric (owner of the NBC television network) and media giant Viacom.

Vivendi has reportedly told these groups to resubmit their bids within two weeks with a minimum price of $11.5 billion (€10.0bn; £6.9bn). It is thought first-round offers largely ranged between $10bn and $11bn, with MGM in the lead on $11.2bn.

The French-headquartered media group added that Universal Music was no longer up for sale. Liberty, Bronfman and Davis all included this unit in their initial bids, but Vivendi believes it can get a higher price at a later date. This leaves theme parks, Universal Pictures and cable network assets on the block.

“In-depth negotiations will now be pursued with selected bidders,” Vivendi stated. The group expects to cut to two or three contenders after the second round.

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