French media and telecoms group, Vivendi Universal, has reported a robust net profit for 2004 and has promised to pay out a dividend for the first time in three years.

The company, driven to near collapse in 2002 by the deal-making of former chairman and ceo Jean-Marie Messier, earned €754 million ($1.01bn, £525m) last year, compared with a loss of €1.14bn in 2003.

The man in charge of the dramatic change in Vivendi's fortunes, current chairman/ceo Jean-Rene Fourtou, has sold more than €22bn in assets from movie studios to water utilities. He has held on to pay television, music, video games and phone services which he says will drive future profits.

Adds Fourtou, who will step up to be chairman of the new supervisory board in the coming months: "My mission is accomplished. It took two and a half years to build a solid foundation.

"We don't have the intention, either in the short term or the long term, to enlarge the palette of our activities. I don't want the crazy expansion, I want growing profits and growing dividends."

Data sourced from International Herald Tribune; additional content by WARC staff