Group threatens to block merger with U

PARIS — As Vivendi, Canal Plus and Seagram move into the last stretch before the $30 billion merger that will create Vivendi Universal, Canal Plus minority shareholders said Monday they “are not happy at all” with the deal they will get and are calling for a guaranteed minimum value for their Canal Plus shares in exchange for Vivendi Universal stock.

Colette Neuville, head of the Assn. of Minority Shareholders (Adam), told Daily Variety that they would try to block the merger “unless we get a better deal.

“Since the merger was announced, Vivendi stocks have dropped considerably,” she explained. “We will be exchanging a sure value for greater risk, and we will have less of a say.”

Two for one

Canal Plus shareholders have been offered two Vivendi Universal shares for one Canal Plus share.

In a communique issued Monday, Canal Plus declared that it refuses to consider the Adam demands: “Canal Plus, Vivendi and Seagram shareholders are getting a fair offer. Therefore, there will be no modification of conditions offered to Canal Plus shareholders and no guaranteed minimum value certificates will be issued.”

Neuville said Adam represents thousands of shareholders, mostly from British institutions.

Stakes at stake

Adam also accuses Vivendi of getting around French law, which limits to no more than 20% the stake non-European Union stockholders can own in a television group.

Canal Plus said that French authorities are regularly told who the major shareholders are. Sources say that any shareholder with more than 1.5% in the company is declared to French authorities.

Vivendi owns 49% of Canal Plus, the maximum under French law that any shareholder can have in a television company. Canal Plus, Vivendi and Seagram are to hold shareholder general assemblies Dec. 5 on the merger.

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