The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vivendi to focus on telecom

Paris, Sept. 25: When the chairman of Vivendi Universal clarifies the company’s strategy on Wednesday, he will propose focusing it in the direction of broadcasting and telecommunications, the chief executive of one of Vivendi Universal’s biggest units said Tuesday.

Since taking the reins of Vivendi in July, the chairman, Jean-Rene Fourtou, has not publicly ruled out selling any of its parts. But the chief executive of Vivendi Environnement, Henri Proglio, said Tuesday that Fourtou intended to recommend to the parent company’s board on Wednesday that it give “more autonomy” to Vivendi Environnement and gradually make Vivendi Universal a “company dedicated to communication.”

Proglio did not elaborate. But people close to Fourtou, including union representatives, said that it meant Fourtou would propose a strategy for reducing Vivendi Universal’s stake in Vivendi Environnement, whose water supply and waste treatment operations were Vivendi’s original businesses. Fourtou’s predecessor, Jean-Marie Messier, transformed what was once known as Generale des Eaux into Vivendi, a diversified utility and media business, but ran up huge debts in the process.

Fourtou is also expected to discuss selling Vivendi’s publishing assets, including Houghton & Mifflin in the United States. But he is expected to propose retaining the US entertainment assets, including the Universal studios and music business, at least for now. And he is said to want to increase the 44 per cent stake Vivendi now holds in Cegetel; the other owners are the BT Group, SBC Communications and Vodafone.

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