Vivendi Universal on Wednesday reported narrower losses for the second quarter, though revenues tumbled in the wake of its asset auction.

The media mammoth posted a net deficit of €313 million ($358.7m; £216.8m) for the three months ending June, a vast improvement on the €11.49bn loss recorded for the same period last year (when Vivendi had to write down some €11bn).

However, Q2 sales slumped 60% to €6.13bn after the divestment of businesses such as Italian pay-TV firm Telepiù and publishing unit Express-Expansion-Etudiant. Operating profits were down for the same reason, slipping 41% to €833m.

For the first half, net losses shrank from €12.31bn last year to €632m, while operating earnings fell 27% to €1.68bn.

The asset disposals are part of a debt-reduction programme instigated when Jean-René Fourtou replaced arch dealmaker Jean-Marie Messier as ceo in July 2002. This scheme seems to bearing fruit: net debt in the first half dropped from €35bn last year to €13.7bn, and Vivendi hopes to hit €13bn by the end of 2003.

A further bright spot for the group is a return to profit at French pay-TV group Canal Plus. The division entered the black (on an operating basis) for the first time since it purchased rival NetHold seven years ago.

Since Messier’s controversial sacking last year of popular co-founder Pierre Lescure [WAMN: 17-Apr-03], Canal Plus has sold several lossmaking foreign ventures, slashed its workforce and focused on its domestic business.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff