Vincent Bollore gives first clues on his vision for Vivendi

Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:39am EDT
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By Leila Abboud and Gwénaëlle Barzic

PARIS (Reuters) - Billionaire French businessman Vincent Bollore gave the first hints of his strategy for Vivendi as he took over as chairman on Tuesday, saying he saw the potential to grow its media assets while also paying a healthy dividend.

Vivendi, one of France's biggest companies, has sold off three businesses, including telecoms operator SFR, in a two-year overhaul aimed at cutting debts and reviving its share price.

Bollore, who with a 5 percent stake is its biggest shareholder, will be the key decision maker as the company seeks to forge a coherent whole out of its three remaining businesses and starts to look for growth opportunities.

Vivendi now owns the world's biggest record label, Universal Music Group, France's biggest pay-television operator, Canal Plus, and Brazilian broadband specialist GVT.

"Vivendi's strategy is now clearly fixed," Bollore told an annual shareholder meeting in his first public remarks on the company since he became vice-chairman last year.

"It is to transform the company from a financial holding to an integrated company focused on content".

Despite his influence, the 62-year old tycoon - famed for building a family owned transport business in Africa and raiding blue-chip companies - has so far said very little about where he wants to take Vivendi. That has left investors and analysts guessing whether his intentions are to sell off more of the group, or seek to build something from its current portfolio.

One thing is sure, Vivendi is expected to hit the acquisition trail late this year and next to seek growth. People familiar with the situation have told Reuters it has up to 10 billion euros ($14 billion) to remake itself in media depending on how much debt it is willing to take on.   Continued...

Vincent Bollore, the current vice-chairman of Vivendi and largest shareholder, attends the company's shareholders meeting in Paris, June 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Benoit Tessier