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EC extends Vivendi, U probe

Commision to explore list of guarantees

PARIS — The European Commission is extending its investigation into the future Vivendi Universal for another 11 days to examine new guarantees on competition.

The EC has given itself until Oct. 13 to make up its mind. On that date, it will either approve the deal or set in motion a second-phase investigation that could take another four months.

Asserting that the extension was “quite normal under the circumstances,” a Vivendi spokesman Monday insisted that the company was “serene and confident about completing phase one successfully.”

On Friday, the French media conglom submitted a list of guarantees to competition commissioner Mario Monti. It affirmed that Vivendi’s distribution pipelines would be open to its competitors’ content and vice versa, and that Universal’s catalog of 9,000 films would be available to Canal Plus’ competitors in France and other European territories.

Equal access

Vivendi also pledged that rival music companies would be offered the same access as U Music to Vizzavi, Vivendi’s multiaccess portal venture with Vodafone.

Brussels observers say that the commission does not want to appear to be treating the architects of the Vivendi/Seagram deal any more leniently than the AOL/Time Warner dealmakers.

The French daily Les Echos quoted one source as saying, “Politically, Brussels cannot nitpick with the Americans and then roll out the red carpet for the French a few days later.”

While the EC takes its time, its seems likely that Vivendi will have to delay its Oct. 2 board meeting.

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