The world’s number two media group Vivendi Universal has agreed to sell its stake in AOL France to the one group larger than it - AOL Time Warner.

Vivendi has been planning to sell the 55% holding for some time [WAMN: 29-Jan-01], and has negotiated a price of $700 million with AOL. Before completion, however, the deal must be approved by shareholders of Cegetel, Vivendi’s telecoms arm.

Despite the sale, Vivendi chairman Jean-Marie Messier is not contemplating a withdrawal from the online world. Speaking at a conference yesterday, Messier asked rhetorically “What are the consequences of the ‘e-crack’?” The answer, it would seem, is “opportunities” to buy failing online companies. Continued Messier: “Some of these businesses have become really cheap and some of these businesses are really good.”

One such opportunity could be a deal with music-swapping service Napster, as Messier hinted that Vivendi – the largest music group in the world – would be willing to license works from its labels to the website if the latter could protect copyright.

News source: Financial Times