Viv U board member: No suspicion of fraud

Probe news sends share price tumbling

PARIS — A Vivendi Universal board member on Thursday downplayed the gravity of a probe by French regulators into the beleaguered media giant’s accounts, calming jittery investors and helping to lift stock prices after opening losses.

“There is no suspicion of fraud in the presentation of accounts,” Mark Vienot said. Vienot is also the former chairman of the company’s main lender, Societe Generale.

The Commission des Operations de Bourse, France’s equivalent of the SEC, announced Tuesday night that it had raided the company’s headquarters to obtain documents in its investigation into the past 18 months of Viv U’s finances.

Stock price plummets

The news sent Viv U’s share price tumbling, even though the ailing media group secured a x1 billion ($998 million) loan from its banks and is lining up another $2.5 billion.

COB chairman Michel Prada said Tuesday night that the investigation did not imply criminal wrongdoing on the part of the company, but he would give no further details of the probe.

Vienot also quelled rumors that new topper Jean-Rene Fourtou, who replaced ousted CEO Jean-Marie Messier last week, was a stopgap until someone more suitable could be found.

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