The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Crisis over, Vivendi ready to bag Cegetel

Paris, Nov. 27: Vivendi Universal boasted Tuesday that its cash crisis was over.

The company says it is now storing ammunition in case it decides to take on the Vodafone Group of Britain, the world’s largest wireless operator, in a battle for control of the French phone company Cegetel. The upbeat stand by Vivendi is a remarkable turn for a company that was on the brink of bankruptcy last summer, forcing it to put assets up for sale and to assemble ambitious refinancing packages.

The importance of Cegetel, in which Vivendi holds a 40 per cent stake, was highlighted Tuesday in Vivendi’s third-quarter results. The company reported a 25 per cent rise in operating profit, as strength in Cegetel, a rival to France Telecom, offset weak performances in its US entertainment businesses.

Universal Music slumped 89 per cent from a year ago, largely as a result of higher artist fees and investment costs. The entertainment group was down 30 per cent, attributed to a marked absence of blockbuster films in the quarter.

Overall for the quarter, Vivendi said its net loss widened to 1.23 billion euros ($ 1.23 billion) compared with a loss of 960 million euros in the quarter a year ago. It said the loss included one-time items of 1.2 billion euros linked to the sale of Houghton Mifflin in the United States, and Telepiu, an Italian pay-television business.

Shares of Vivendi rose more than 3 per cent in Paris trading, to 15.30 euros. The shares have climbed 14 per cent in the last month. On the New York Stock Exchange, Vivendi’s US depository receipts — each representing one share of the French company — rose 23 cents, or 2 per cent, to $ 14.93. While Vivendi’s shares have climbed 14 per cent in the last month, the stock remains down 72 per cent for the year.

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