Vivendi is considering the possible sale of its 20 percent stake in U.S. entertainment group NBC Universal and could start whittling it down in 2007, the French media and telecoms group said on Friday.
“We are asking ourselves what we will do with this 20 percent ... We can exit as of 2007 and every year until 2011. The question is being asked, will we or will we not stay in NBCU?,” Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy told the Actionaria investor forum.
NBC Universal, which is controlled by General Electric, is home to the NBC television network and the Universal Studios film unit.
(MSNBC.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal News.)
Levy also fielded questions regarding last month’s failed takeover approach from U.S. private equity firm KKR.
Several Paris and London-based analysts have long argued that Vivendi would be worth more broken up than in its current conglomerate form.
Levy said on Friday that KKR had not offered a significant premium to shareholders.
Earlier this month, Vivendi confirmed that it held talks with KKR but said the private equity firm’s proposal would have preserved the group’s existing structure.
“After several weeks, KKR came to see me and said, in a word: ’It does not make sense.’ After carefully studying the files, we are not able to offer a significant premium,” Levy said of KKR.
“The chapter is closed,” he added, declining to indicate what price was discussed.
He said Vivendi had not received approaches from funds other than KKR last month and Sebastian Holdings earlier this year.
Asked if Vivendi had received approaches from other funds, Levy only answered: “Nothing which has not been made public.”
Vivendi, which owns 56 percent of France’s second-largest mobile operator SFR, also said British telecoms group Vodafone, which owns the balance of SFR, had not made an offer for Vivendi’s controlling holding.
Vodafone Chief Executive Officer Arun Sarin on Tuesday said the company was happy with its stake in SFR and would only consider raising its stake at the right price.
Asked if Vivendi had received an offer for its SFR holding, Levy answered: “No.”
He added: “There is nothing new. Today the difference is that Vivendi has the means to do the operation the other way around, and we have always said that our duty was to submit offers to our supervisory board.”
Regarding another telecoms investment, he said Vivendi was not planning to change its 40.7 percent holding in fixed-line telecoms group Neuf Cegetel, which floated last month.
Vivendi also said it did not intend to buy back shares.
“Regarding those companies that buy back their own shares, there are as many (who do it) whose shares are rising and as many whose shares are falling, we have decided not to do it,” he said.