Vivendi Chairman Says Universal Music Group Sale 'Still On Track' -- Just Not This Year

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Yannick Bollore photographed on April 19, 2018 in Paris.

Vivendi chairman Yannick Bolloré has told Bloomberg in a new interview that "everything's fine" regarding the French conglomerate's loose-timelined plan to sell up to 50% of Universal Music Group. The executive said Vivendi's advisory board is working with UMG's management to find the right "strategic financial partner" in order to "accelerate the growth" of the label, but insists they are in no rush to do it.

"As you may know the music industry is going through a huge period of growth and the business is thriving and we want to make sure we can accelerate this growth in the coming years," he said. "So, for now we have communicated that we want to open up the process before the end of 2019 and all the management of Vivendi is very confident that the process is still on track."

Vivendi announced its intent to sell half of UMG's share capital on July 30 of last year, which coincided with management's decision to scuttle a plan to take the label group public.

As previously reported, Videndi has already actively engaged in conversations with potential suitors, namely Liberty Media and Tencent, but any deal between the parties would be complicated and likely face potential conflicts of interest and possibly regulatory speed bumps.

Bollore, who replaced his father Vincent Bollore as chairman of the supervisory board of Vivendi last year, stressed that the "process" of finding a strategic buyer is on target for this year, but not the actual sale.

"You know we're not in a hurry," he said. "Vivendi is doing very well. UMG is doing very well. The question is how to find the right partner -- up to 50%. Once again, everything's fine -- trust me."

The UMG label family includes the Capitol Music Group, Republic Records, Island Records, Def Jam, Interscope Geffen A&M Records, UMG Nashville and Universal Music Latin, among others. It also owns the Universal Music Publishing Group.

The company's potential valuation varies from bank to bank. Earlier this year, Deutsche Bank pegged it at $33 billion, and later Morgan Stanley estimated it at $45 billion. Last year, UMG produced earnings before interest, taxes and amortization (EBITA) of €902 million ($1.07 billion), making it the first major label in more than a decade to top $1 billion for that performance figure.