An $8.5 billion takeover bid of Universal Music Group (UMG) by Japanese telecoms group SoftBank some three months ago was rejected by Vivendi, the French media and telecom conglomerate that owns UMG, according to sources. The story was first reported by the Financial Times.
The report says that Vivendi has been under pressure to restructure its holdings as its stock shares have fallen 13 percent since early May. The French company, however, sees its music content holdings as an important part of its future strategy, according to one person familiar with the company's thinking.
Late last September, UMG completed its $1.9 billion acquisition of EMI to become the world's largest music label group. In Billboard’s recent mid-year market share numbers, Universal Music Group led the industry with a 37.6% share in albums plus track equivalents albums. That represented a seven-point percentage gain from the 30.1% it posted last year before it completed its acquisition of the majority of EMI assets. Sony Music Group came in a strong second with 29.6% in market share, which is up from the 28.9% it posted in the first half of last year.
Much like Sony, which has been under pressure by activist investor Daniel Loeb to spin off its entertainment holdings, Vivendi has an activist investor in Vincent Bollore. According to the FT, Bollore is similarly pressing Vivendi to dispose of its holdings, which include Activision Blizzard and French TV group Canal Plus.
In June, SoftBank merged with Sprint, investing approximately $21.6 billion, which consists of approximately $16.6 billion to be distributed to Sprint stockholders and an aggregate $5 billion of new capital ($1.9 billion at closing). That deal led some to speculate whether or not SoftBank would have been able to put together the financing for an $8.5 billion takeover of Universal Music.
Spokespeople for Vivendi, Softbank and Universal Music all declined to comment.