Universal Music Group, Canal Plus return to growth

PARIS — Vivendi Universal on Tuesday posted a 5% increase in comparable fourth-quarter revenues to e5.3 ($6.9 billion), although last year’s sale of Universal and other assets caused revs to plunge by more than a quarter in real terms.

Full-year revs were down 16% in real terms but up 5% on a comparable basis to $27.9 billion.

The sale of Viv U’s U.S. entertainment assets, publishing businesses and some pay TV activities brought debts down to $4 billion by the end of 2004.

Conglom said Universal Music Group, Canal Plus Group and Vivendi Universal Games returned to growth in the last quarter, while revenues continued to grow at its telcos SFR Cegetel and Maroc Telecom.

Despite adverse currency movements, UMG’s fourth-quarter revenues rose 4% to $2.3 billion, boosted by the sales of new albums by U2, Eminem and Nelly. Annual revenues were up fractionally to $6.5 billion. In the U.S., UMG increased its album-sales market share by 3.6% last year to 32.2%.

In Viv U’s other media businesses, Canal Plus Group’s fourth-quarter revenues rose 3% to $1.62 million on stable core French pay TV revenues. For the full year, revs rose 4% on a comparable basis to $4.7 billion, including a 3% increase in core revenues to $3.7 billion.

Film subsid StudioCanal saw full-year revenue growth of 12% to $513.7 million, due to theatrical successes including “Crimson Rivers: Angels of the Apocalypse” and comedies “Podium” and “Bridget Jones 2: The Edge of Reason,” plus strong DVD sales of the old Canal Plus hit comedy series “Les nuls.”

In another bright spot, Vivendi Universal Games’ fourth-quarter revenues rose 4% thanks to sales of “Half Life 2″ and the launch of “World of Warcraft” in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Full-year revenues for the games division fell 17% to $619.5 million.

Viv U’s telco businesses, now the biggest part of the conglom, notched up fourth-quarter revenues of $3.2 billion, up 7% on a comparable basis, while comparable full-year revenues were up 10% to $12.9 billion.

The French SFR Cegetel’s fourth-quarter revenues were stable at $2.6 billion, while full-year revs rose 10% to $10.8 billion.

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