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Vivendi Shareholder Could Press Company to Sell Stake in NBCU

Mar 21, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Vivendi Universal SA’s 18.5 percent stake in NBC Universal could be unwound if a little-known private-equity firm that purchased a stake in the French company follows through with a plan to deconstruct the conglomerate created by deposed former CEO Jean-Marie Messier, according to a report Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal.

According to a story published on the Journal’s Web site, Sebastian Holdings has purchased a 2.5 percent stake in Vivendi, making it the French company’s largest shareholder and is looking to push Vivendi to sell off assets that Mr. Messier acquired to create a conglomerate with everything from telephone assets in France and Morocco to Universal Studios.

One option being considered, according to the article, which quotes a person familiar with the matter, is selling the 18.5 percent stake in NBCU. Another option is selling off the French and Moroccan phone assets.

Officials at NBCU and Vivendi could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

If such a move were to take place, it would not be unexpected. Ever since NBCU parent General Electric Co. and Vivendi agreed in September 2003 to merge in a $14 billion deal, Vivendi has had the option to reduce its stake in the media conglomerate at regular intervals starting in 2006.