Viv U has Lion at bay

MGM demand for data rebuffed for now

Vivendi Universal has quickly rebuffed MGM’s Bastille Day demand for certain additional financial data related to the French conglom’s auction of its film, TV and theme park holdings.

But Viv U attempted to mollify Lion by signaling in a letter to the studio that some of the info it seeks will be forthcoming later this week. Whether that data prove sufficient to keep MGM actively engaged in the process remains to be seen.

Lion had asked for information on Universal Pictures’ film library and production deals in return for boosting its bid for Vivendi Universal Entertainment by $300 million, to $11.5 billion (Daily Variety, July 15). MGM, one of five remaining VUE suitors, said it would bow out of the process if the data wasn’t received by Monday.

Highest bid wins

“The whole thing is a joke,” observed an exec with one bidding group. “At the end of the day, they’re going to sell to whomever is the highest bidder.”

MGM claims its $11.5 billion bid is the highest among any offers to date for VUE. But the figure appears to include $1.6 billion of debt assumption, and investment community sources believe an offer by John Malone’s Liberty Media values Liberty at $10.5 billion plus debt assumption.

That would yield a $12.1 billion “enterprise value” including debt assumption. On the other hand, Liberty is offering to buy just 70% of VUE, and it’s believed some of its bid would be based on Liberty shares, vs. MGM’s attractively all-cash bid for 100% of the company.

More bids to come?

Meanwhile, press speculation about possible scenarios still to play out in the seemingly endless auction continued Tuesday with a report that Sumner Redstone and Barry Diller may collaborate on a bid. New York Post article suggested the pair ultimately would split the VUE assets, with Viacom getting TV operations and Diller the film studio,

“Everybody is talking to everybody,” said a source close to the process.

But the insider added that most of the talk is driven by abstract scenarios invented by investment bankers that are unlikely ever to get off the drawing board.

Other bidders to date include a group led by former Viv U vice chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. and General Electric’s NBC. An offer by a Marvin Davis-led group has been rejected as too low.

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