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Vivendi is a diversified conglomerate, now mostly focused on media and marketing, but with numerous other investments. It owns France's leading pay-TV service Canal+, and acquired advertising group Havas in 2017. (That business had originally been a subsidiary of an earlier incarnation of the group). Until 2021 it also owned the global music giant Universal Music but divested the majority of its shares in 2021. Numerous other subsidiaries have been divested after ill-conceived acquisition in the late 1990s almost caused the group's collapse. The group's substantial telecoms assets were sold in 2014, including mobile company SFR, as well as its remaining shares in global gaming giant Activision Blizzard. That same year, Vincent Bolloré became chairman of Vivendi, and subsequently its biggest shareholder as well, having steadily increased his holding to over 20% of voting shares. In an apparent u-turn, Bolloré has returned the group to both telecoms and gaming, accumulating what is now - controversially - a controlling 25% stake in Telecom Italia, outright ownership of mobile game developer Gameloft via a hostile takeover and, for a while, a significant minority stake in French videogame developer Ubisoft. (Those shares were eventually sold in 2018 after all attempts at a full takeover were fought off). Bolloré also transferred into Vivendi his existing ownership of Havas. These and other deals caused revenues to rise steadily, peaking at €16.1bn in 2020. In 2021, Vivendi secured permission from regulators for the acquisition of leading French magazine publisher Prisma Presse from Bertelsmann's G&J, and a series of other deals are in the pipeline, including the takeover of French book and magazine publisher Lagardere. However the demerger of all but 30% of Universal Music caused a sharp decline in revenues to €9.6bn for 2021, but also a huge boost to net earnings which were almost €25.7bn, most of which has been paid out to investors in a special dividend. Vincent Bolloré stepped down unexpectedly as chairman in 2018, and was succeeded by his eldest son Yannick Bolloré. Younger son Cyrille Bolloré joined the board in 2019. Arnaud de Puyfontaine is group CEO. Vivendi was created in the late 1990s by dynamic new chairman Jean-Marie Messier, who transformed what was then the utilities group Compagnie Generale Des Eaux into a global media giant. But the newly renamed Vivendi Universal accumulated huge debts in the process, leading to a series of escalating losses. Misjudged management decisions and an impending cash crisis led to the ousting of Messier in 2002 (as well as fines and a suspended jail sentence), and a new management team was appointed to dismantle the mess he left behind, selling off utilities division Veolia and entertainment group Universal Studios among other businesses.
Capsule checked 8th June 2020
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Adbrands Update 30th May 2022: Vivendi continues to hoover up French media owners to build out its offering. Following a public offering it announced it has now accumulated majority control of Lagardère with over 55% of equity. The current offer of €25 per share remains open for another two weeks, before reducing to €24.1 on June 10th. Lagardère is best known as the owner of France's leading book publisher Hachette, as well as the Elle and Paris-Match magazine brands, and a substantial travel retail division.
Adbrands Daily Update 20th Sep 2021: As Vivendi prepares to spin off most of Universal Music to its shareholders (including the Bolloré family), the rapacious media group is already teeing up its next takeover. After years of jockeying to and fro with rival mediaowner Lagardère, Vivendi has agreed to acquire an 18% stake in the troubled book publisher from private equity investor Amber Capital. It is then expected to make a public offer for the remaining shares. In the rapidly consolidating global book business, Lagardère's Hachette is the #3 behind Penguin Random House and HarperCollins. It is the unquestioned leader in France, but its collection of English language imprints include Little, Brown and Hodder & Stoughton. Other assets include a sizeable travel retail division, and a few key magazine titles that would fit into Vivendi's newly acquired Prisma Media division, including Paris Match and Elle. [Updated: By mid December, Vivendi had accumulated 45% of Lagadere's equity and will launch a public offer for the remaining shares in Feb 2022.]
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Feb 2021: Having already sold a 20% stake in Universal Music to China's Tencent, Vivendi is now proposing to spin off a further 60% of equity to shareholders before the end of the year. It will itself retain just 20%, the same percentage as Tencent. As the controlling shareholder in Vivendi, the family investment group of chairman Vincent Bolloré would receive around 16% of Universal Music in the spin-off. Added to Vivendi's remaining 20% holding, the Bolloré family would in effect end up with a 36% stake in the standalone music giant. The resulting entity would be publicly quoted in the Netherlands. A shareholders' meeting has been scheduled for the end of March to approve the arrangement.
Adbrands Daily Update 26th Jan 2021: Having apparently secured the purchase of France's Prisma Media for an undisclosed sum, Vivendi has moved on in pursuit of yet another target. It announced it has acquired a minority stake in Spanish media group Prisa, owner of the newspaper El Pais, radio network Cadena SER and education publisher Santillana among other assets. A series of purchases of Prisa stock were made through the financial markets, with Vivendi holding just under 10% of equity this week.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Dec 2020: In the latest diversification of its widely spread portfolio, Vivendi is in exclusive talks to acquire France's leading magazine publisher Prisma Presse from Bertelsmann's Gruner & Jahr division. A sale, if it happens, would complete the exit of Gruner & Jahr - once Europe's biggest magazine publisher with operations in 20 countries - from all markets except Germany. Prisma is France's biggest magazine house, owner of Femme Actuelle, Capital, Geo, Gala, Tele-Loisirs, Ici and others. Vivendi has also recently acquired a stake in Lagardere in a bid to force an acquisition of that group's international media assets. [Updated: A deal was concluded, although very few details have been disclosed. Vivendi confirmed at the end of December that it had "signed a put option agreement for 100% of Prisma Media" subject to "consultation with the Prisma Media representative bodies, and to the finalisation of the legal documentation". Following consultation, the purchase was cleared by regulators in May 2021.]
Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Jan 2020: After more than a year of negotiation with different partners, Vivendi agreed to sell a 10% equity stake in Universal Music to a consortium led by Chinese media company Tencent. The price tag of €3bn values Universal at €30bn. Tencent also gets an option increase its stake by up to another 10% at the same valuation before January 2021. Tencent is China's biggest streaming music service, and the deal will bolster its local operation. A separate deal will be concluded later this year to give the streaming business a minority position in Universal's local operations in China.
Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Nov 2018: French media group Vivendi is widening its portfolio with a deal to acquire France's second largest book publisher (after Hachette). It will purchase Editis from Spain's Grupo Planeta for around €900m, slightly more than annual revenues of around €750m. Editis comprises around 50 local publishing houses, specialising primarily in French language authors. They include Nathan, Bordas, Robert Laffont, Presses de la Cité and Julliard, among others. The group highlighted in its announcement the fact that book publishing is in France still the leading cultural market by revenues, ahead of both cinema and music. Combined book sales in France were €6bn in 2017.
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