Business Briefs

Mar 11, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Diller praised by Vivendi chief, who aims to slow acquisitions
Vivendi Universal Chairman Jean-Marie Messier tried to calm investor fears by promising no more big acquisitions or mergers on the horizon just now. His remarks came during a year-end earnings call with analysts. “We are not contemplating or scrutinizing any significant or nonsignificant acquisition for 2002. We have no need,” Mr. Messier said. But he is so pleased with the integration efforts Barry Diller is overseeing at Vivendi Universal Entertainment he wants to give him a little something extra. Mr. Diller will have a 1.5 percent interest in VUE-and sole ownership of USA Interactive-when the transaction closes in April. “From what I am seeing of Barry’s commitment, I would be inclined to add something that he has not requested so far in terms of options at either the VUE or the VU level,” Mr. Messier said. He added that although anticipated U.S. media deregulation is “welcome,” he does not expect that “it is going to create a short-term wave of transactions in the U.S. We could not imagine using our shares for any kind of transaction in the current market,” he said. The company’s stock is down 21 percent this year. Vivendi Universal announced a 12.6 billion euro ($11.1 billion) write-down related to accounting rule changes in amortization that have resulted in even bigger write-downs at other media companies.
Granite Broadcasting looking to swap small stations for big
Granite Broadcasting will aggressively seek to swap or sell its WB-affiliated smaller stations for larger-market news-oriented stations affiliated with the Big 3 networks after it completes its sale of KNTV to NBC, executives told analysts last week during a 2001 earnings call. The company said its results exceeded expectations primarily due to the strong performance of KNTV-which recently became the San Francisco Bay area’s NBC affiliate-in addition to group cost controls. While it still owns KNTV, Granite said its first-quarter revenues should increase as much as 59 percent from a year ago as cash flow soars to more than $13 million, compared with $684,000 a year earlier. Granite Chairman Don Cornwell said NBC’s pending arbitration with Paxson Communications should not impact the KNTV transition. But “if the deal were to fall apart and we were able to continue owning it, I would be delighted,” he said.
Comcast says it can cover debt due to AT&T cable merger
Comcast Corp. executives told attendees at the Bear Stearns Media Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., the company will have a funding pool of $16 billion available to cover up to $14 billion in debt that will be attached to AT&T-Comcast when the cable operations merge later this year. They also reaffirmed the planned sale of AT&T’s 25 percent stake in Time Warner Entertainment, valued at about $10 billion, to help pay off debt. Also, Comcast said it has achieved an estimated $5 per subscriber per month in savings by assuming control of the high-speed Internet service formerly provided by Excite@Home.