UMG First Quarter Revenues Up 13% as COVID-19 So Far Has 'Limited Impact' on Vivendi Earnings

Justin Bieber
Joe Termini

Justin Bieber

Streaming and publishing revenues enjoyed double-digit growth in the first three months of 2020.

LONDON – Universal Music Group's revenues grew to €1.77 billion ($1.9 billion) in the first quarter of 2020, up 13% at constant currency and perimeter thanks to big-selling new releases from Justin Bieber, Eminem, The Weeknd and Japanese pop group King & Prince.

UMG owner, French media and telecom conglomerate Vivendi, reports that the COVID-19 pandemic had only a "limited impact" on its earnings during the first three months of the year when group revenues totaled €3.87 billion ($4.2 billion), a rise of 4.4% (at constant currency) on the same period the previous year.

In actual terms, Vivendi's Q1 earnings rose by just under 12%, primarily driven by the growth of Universal Music Group and, to a lesser extent, the group's second-biggest division Canal Plus.

Vivendi says its main businesses affected by the pandemic were advertising agency Havas Group, publishing group Editis and its digital, ticketing and live entertainment arm Vivendi Village.

"Each of Vivendi's businesses is closely monitoring the current and potential effects of this outbreak," says the Paris-based company in its first quarter earnings statement.

"At this point, it is impossible to determine with certainty how long it [the pandemic] will last and how it will impact Vivendi's revenues and annual results."

At UMG, recorded music revenues jumped 13% to €1.432 billion ($1.55 billion) thanks to sustained growth in subscription and streaming revenues -- which increased 16.5% to €908 million ($985 million) -- and receipt of an unspecified digital royalty claim. A spokesperson for Vivendi said the digital royalty claim accounted for just under 3% of recorded music growth.

Download sales tumbled by more than 26%, while physical sales reached €196 million ($212 million), down 1.4% compared to the first quarter of 2019, reports Vivendi.

Music publishing revenues grew by 18% to €271 million ($294 million), also driven by increased subscription and streaming revenues.

There was, however, a fall in merchandising and other revenues, which were down by around 5% year-on-year, to €70 million ($76 million), due to a lower number of Universal artists touring compared to the start of 2019, even before the coronavirus pandemic brought the live industry to a standstill.

Following the March 31 sale of a 10% stake in UMG to a consortium led by Chinese online giant Tencent, Vivendi's gross cash holding stood at €4.8 billion ($5.2 billion). Vivendi said it also has €3.9 billion ($4.2 billion) in confirmed credit facilities, including €2.3 billion ($2.5 billion) immediately available.

As of March 31, Vivendi group's net debt stood at €2.4 billion ($2.6 billion) with a debt-to-equity ratio of around 15%.