Peter Schoenfeld touched down in Paris yesterday as he sought to pile further pressure on Vivendi in his bid to force them to spin off Universal Music Group, headed by Lucian Grange.
Known on Wall Street as the “quiet professor of merger arbitrage”, Schoenfeld has recently found his voice in his ongoing battle to secure a larger return for investors in the French company.
Vivendi confirmed P Schoenfeld Asset Management (PSAM) had sent a letter to the management board last December making the case they should sell Universal Music. But at a Paris press conference yesterday Schoenfeld attempted to drum up support for his position, calling on shareholders to back his proposals.
PSAM also submitted two resolutions for the group’s annual shareholder meeting next month, reiterating a call for €9bn (£6.6bn) in special dividends from money obtained from Vivendi’s recent €15bn asset sell off. Schoenfeld said shareholders had “a unique opportunity” to send a message to the board, amid concerns Vivendi’s current cash pile is not being put to good use.
But Vivendi hit back, saying the proposed special dividend would “jeopardize” its development strategy and exceed its distributable reserves.
With a one per cent stake in the company, analysts do not rate his chances. “It’s hard to see any activist making much headway,” said Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker.
Vivendi’s chairman Vincent Bollore faced more dissent yesterday after investment fund PhiTrust challenged a law giving him double votes.