New topper orders audit, seeks cash

PARIS — New Vivendi Universal topper Jean-Rene Fourtou met with employees at the conglom’s Paris headquarters Thursday and informed them he would give himself until September to come up with a restructuring plan.

Fourtou stated he had no “preconceived ideas” about what the conglom’s final configuration would resemble.

Putting the Viv U situation in perspective, Fourtou assured staff that when he took over chemical giant Rhone-Poulenc in 1986 the situation there was even worse.

But according to a liquidity statement released Wednesday night by the conglom after the three hour board meeting in Paris in which Fortou replaced Jean-Marie Messier, Viv U could face a cash crunch of €2.7 billion ($2.6 billion) by the end of the year and a shortage of $5.36 billion by mid 2003, unless Fourtou and co. can secure new multi-billion dollar credit lines.

Fourtou said his first job is to get the conglom’s finances in order and is ordering a financial and strategic audit.

Presently Viv U has $1.17 billion in cash, but must honor $1.75 billion in debts by the end of the month.

To this end, the group will draw on its existing $1.56 billion credit line and renegotiate $3.7 billion in credit lines due to be rolled over in July.

According to Fourtou, Viv U management will remain unchanged.

Messier supporters Eric Licoys (managing director), Guillaume Hannezo (financial director), Agnes Touraine (Viv U publishing) and Philippe Germond (Viv U telecoms and internet) will retain their posts atop Viv U’s corporate structure.

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