Games offset music slump at Vivendi

Steve Dinneen
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IN a sign of the changing entertainment landscape, a blistering performance by Vivendi’s video games division has offset a slump in its music business.

Vivendi’s Universal Music, host to acts including Rihanna and U2, saw its first half underlying earnings fall 17 per cent to €132m (£117m), on revenues down 1.9 per cent at €1.86bn.

But this was more than balanced by games business Activision Blizzard, which was buoyed by the roaring success of games including Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, pushing earnings 34.4 per cent higher year-on-year to €833m.

Revenues of €1.86bn – a hike of nine per cent – rivalled the music business for the first time. The winning streak looks set to continue after the firm received record pre-orders of upcoming title Modern Warfare 3.

The French conglomerate saw its overall pre-tax profit rise 20.2 per cent to €1.83bn, boosted by favourable, one-off tax credits linked to its minority buyout of SFR. Its revenue was up 1.9 per cent to €14.25bn.

The mobile business, acquired from Vodafone for €8bn, is competing in a tough French telecoms market, with a fierce price-war raging.

Mobile operating margins slipped to 25.4 per cent in the first half of the year from 27.3 per cent a year earlier.

Chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy said: “This first half has meant a very major milestone for Vivendi... with disposal of our minority stake in NBC Universal and the deal with Vodafone to buy the SFR stake.

“Activision Blizzard and [Brazilian unit] GVT have fueled the growth of Vivendi and are clearly above our own expectations. Activision Blizzard has fantastic properties and franchises that will lead to recurring profit.”