Vivendi Universal is promising better times ahead after posting a sharp drop in losses for the first half.

The media mammoth – struggling beneath a debt mountain amassed during an overambitious acquisition spree – is predicting a 20% increase in underlying operating profits for 2003 as a whole.

Underlying earnings exclude the effects of divestments, of which there have several in recent months. Vivendi's desperate programme of asset sales has inevitably shrunk its overall operating profits, and in the first half these tumbled 41% to €833 million ($953m; £577m).

Nevertheless, Vivendi is confident it can return to health by 2005, at which point it hopes to start paying a dividend to its shareholders again. The French group has made no such payment since the ousting of deal-crazed ceo Jean-Marie Messier last year.

For the first six months of the year, Vivendi reported net losses of €313m, down from $11.5bn a year earlier [WAMN: 25-Sep-03].

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