French conglomerate Vivendi, which owns Universal Music Group, today announced that its supervisory board has unanimously voted to launch a study to split into two separate companies – an international media group and the SFR telecom group.
Vivendi’s new international media group would be based in France and include UMG, the world’s largest music company, as well as Internet and associated services in Brazil, European cinema, pay-television in France, Africa, Poland and Vietnam. According to the statement, the new company would focus on developing media at a time when there is strong global demand for content.
At the same time, spinning off SFR would allow Vivendi’s telecommunications holdings “greater freedom on strategy and developing partnerships” that would be “boosted by the explosion in usage of very high speed fixed and mobile Internet and connectivity.”
A final decision on the demerger, according to the release, could be reached by beginning of next year and submitted at the Vivendi’s 2014 Shareholders’ Meeting.
Vivendi’s holdings include the French pay-TV company Canal+ Group and its subsidiary StudioCanal; the Universal Music Group which in Sept. 2012 acquired EMI Recorded Music. In telecommunications, Vivendi owns GVT, a broadband operator in Brazil and French telecom SFR.
In June of this year, news broke that Japanese Telecom SoftBank had offered a $8.5 billion takeover bid of Vivendi’s Universal Music group that the company rejected. A report then said that Vivendi has been under pressure to restructure its holdings as its stock shares had then fallen 13 percent since early May.
Also today, Jean-René Fourtou, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, proposed the appointment of Vincent Bolloré as Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board to help prepare for the possible reorganization. Bollore’s ascension to Vice Chairman is significant in that he is Vivendi’s largest shareholder and an activist investor who earlier in the year called on Vivendi to dispose of its holdings. According to report today on Bloomberg, Bollore was also a candidate to become the CEO of Vivendi, a position which sources said he rejected. In June of last year former CEO Jean-Bernard Levy was replaced by current interim CEO Jean-Francois Dubos.
Vivendi in July announced two major divestments: selling its Maroc Telecom hodings to Emirates Telecommunications Corp. (ETISALAT) and the sale of its majority interest in ActivisionBlizzard.