The plunging value of Vivendi Universal’s stock – down about 30% since the start of the year – has drawn a stiff response from chief executive Jean-Marie Messier.

Writing to the media giant’s staff, Messier blamed an “unfair” campaign by speculators against the company based on “rumours and manipulation” concerning Vivendi’s financial performance in light of changing US accounting procedures.

“So why these attacks and suspicions?” he continued. “Because the markets are disorientated. Because speculators are looking for targets, one after the other.”

Messier reassured investors that fiscal results for 2001, to be released at the start of March, will not contain any nasty surprises, adding that none of Vivendi’s major stakeholders plans to offload shares. “All of them believe the share price is unreasonably low,” he declared.

Nevertheless, the group’s stock continued its downward spiral, falling 2% on Wednesday to E45.15.

In addition, Messier denied speculation that Vivendi would be looking to acquire the MGM Hollywood studio or German media giant Kirch Gruppe. “Our priority for 2002 is internal growth,” he insisted.

News source: The Times (London)