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Vivendi Sells AOL France Stake; Eyes Online Purchases

News, 06 March 2001

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