Quarterly sales up 24%, earnings rise 90%

PARIS — Life for Vivendi Universal looked pretty rosy Tuesday after the French media giant announced a 24% rise in third-quarter sales to 7.29 billion euros ($6.6 billion) and a 90% earnings growth to $1.35 billion.

Sending the French company’s stocks soaring Tuesday afternoon after a recent slump, Vivendi said that its third-quarter results represent the achievement in the past nine months of almost 100% of its targets for 2001, reiterating that it will reach its ’01 goals of a 10% growth in sales and a 35% earnings increase.

In contrast with limp figures published in recent weeks by competitors such as AOL Time Warner and News Corp. who have been hit hard by a drop in ad sales, Vivendi U’s core media and communications arms are flourishing.

“A very small portion of our revenues are generated from advertising,” Vivendi chairman and CEO Jean-Marie Messier said in a statement. “Advertising generates approximately 1% of our revenues. This is a lower stake than our peers.”

Messier also attributed Vivendi U’s sturdiness to its concerns being spread out globally, allowing them some measure of financial stability.

Vivendi U’s TV and film earnings rose 73% in the third quarter to $297 million, spurred by the performance of films such as “Jurassic Park III,” which has pocketed more than $380 million worldwide, and “American Pie 2.”

Furthermore, pay TV sales increased 11% at Vivendi U subsid the Canal Plus Group while earnings rose 25%. Messier said this was due primarily to continued subscriber growth at Italian subsidiary Tele Piu and the company’s French digital satellite platform, CanalSatellite.

The TV and film division saw an overall growth in earnings of 92% in the first nine months of this year and the topper believes that the last quarter will further the trend.

“The excellent year-to-date results generated by TV and film are expected to continue in the fourth quarter and beyond,” Messier said, citing the early U.S. success of “K-PAX,” which took home $17.2 million in its first weekend.

In addition, revenues for the music unit edged lower to $1.32 billion in the quarter, but core earnings inched higher to $226.4 million.

The Internet division continued to struggle, posting an earnings loss of $60.7 million.

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