Vivendi's SFR telecom unit to cut 856 jobs
By Leila Abboud and Gwénaëlle Barzic
PARIS (Reuters) - Vivendi's SFR telecom unit plans to cut 856 jobs via a voluntary departure plan, it said on Wednesday, as it restructures to cope with tougher competition in France.
Unions swiftly condemned the move as unacceptable given the more than 3 billion euros ($3.88 billion) in profit that SFR should generate this year, and voiced fears that the cuts were a step towards a sale of France's second-biggest mobile operator.
Vivendi is seeking buyers for its telecoms operations in Morocco and Brazil as part of a strategic overhaul the media-to-telecoms conglomerate hopes will cut debt and revive its flagging share price.
Led by longtime Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou, Vivendi has since the summer been exploring ways to reduce its exposure to investment-heavy telecoms and focus more on its music and pay-TV businesses.
SFR, long Vivendi's cash cow, has been hit by the arrival of a new low-cost mobile player Iliad, triggering a price war in France. Speculation has swirled around Vivendi's plans for SFR, with French media reports suggesting talks were underway on a tie-up with local cable operator Numericable or a sale to Iliad.
Stephane Roussel, SFR's chief executive, acknowledged in an interview that interested parties had approached Vivendi about SFR, but said the group was not out searching for a buyer.
"Although there is a broader reflection on telecoms going on in Vivendi, there is no active initiative on Vivendi's part consisting of going to market to find a buyer for SFR," he said. Continued...