Vivendi sells its NBC stake

Steve Dinneen
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Vivendi has offloaded its stake in NBC Universal to General Electric (GE) for $2bn (£1.26bn).

The French conglomerate sold a third of its 20 per cent stake and says it will sell the remainder for $3.8bn when GE completes a separate deal with entertainment firm Comcast.

Earlier this month Vivendi chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy said the group could use the NBC sale proceeds to buy telecom operator SFR, of which it currently owns 56 per cent.

Vivendi has seen its shares slide to seven-year lows – largely underperforming peers – on concerns about acquisitions, the cost of a US class-action lawsuit and intensifying competition in the French telecom sector.

Vivendi’s company structure – under which it does not wholly own its major divisions – has led investors to apply a 25 to 40 per cent conglomerate discount. Earlier this month Vivendi, Europe’s largest telecom and entertainment group, raised its profit targets on the back of forecast-beating first-half results.

It also attempted to reassure investors on its acquisition strategy, temporarily lifting its flagging stock.

Vivendi raised its 2010 guidance to an “increase” in Ebitda, compared with a previous forecast of “slight growth”. It also gave guidance on its adjusted net income for the first time, forecasting it would rise from €2.59bn (£2.15bn) in 2009. First-half operating profit rose to €3.24bn.