Lifted by solid performances by its music business in North America and Britain, Vivendi Universal (VU) today (Nov. 9) reported comparable third-quarter sales rose 6% to €4.7 billion ($6.05 bil

Lifted by solid performances by its music business in North America and Britain, Vivendi Universal (VU) today (Nov. 9) reported comparable third-quarter sales rose 6% to €4.7 billion ($6.05 billion). The French media giant's results came in higher than analysts' expectations. "They beat both our €4.565 billion ($5.9 billion) forecast and €4.571 billion ($5.91 billion) market consensus," says research and brokerage firm Kepler Equities in a research note.

On a consolidated basis, however, the group posted a 20% decline in sales in the three months to Sept. 30, thanks largely to the partial sale of its entertainment division to General Electric Co.-owned NBC and the disposal of pay-TV unit Canal Plus assets.

Like-for-like group revenues for the first nine months of 2004 gained 5% to €13.56 billion ($17.54 billion).

Sales at its Universal Music Group (UMG) division rose 4% to €1.16 billion ($1.5 billion) during the third quarter, boosted by twin album releases from Nelly, an English language set from leading Japanese pop star Hikaru Utada and debut releases from Ashlee Simpson, Young Buck and Jo Jo. At constant currency, UMG revenues during the period increased 8% compared with the same period last year.

"Last year management was focused on what VU management would do with respect to the Universal Music unit, whether it would be sold or kept," comments Nicolas Gindre, Paris-based analyst for Kepler Equities. "I think (UMG's performance) has somehow distracted the management. Now they're back on the game and they're strong."

For the first nine months, UMG sales slipped 2% on the corresponding period last year to €3.233 billion ($4.18 billion) due largely to adverse currency movements, the company says. On a constant currency basis, UMG reports revenues improved 3% during the same period, bolstered by better-than-market performances particularly in North America and the United Kingdom.

Third quarter sales of digitized music -- including ring tones -- reached €57 million ($73.73 million) and now accounts for about 2% of the music division's revenue.