Norseman readies raid on Vivendi

Deutsche Bank and Bank of America add to Vik's war chest

CANNES — Norwegian investor Alexander Vik is still gunning for Vivendi, despite the media conglom’s dismissal last week of his Euros 38.6 billion ($49.8 billion) breakup plan as “totally mediocre.”

Vik, whose investment vehicle Sebastian Holdings holds more than 4% of the company’s capital, has been trying to drum up support for his plan from Gallic media and defense firm Lagardere and British telecom Vodafone. Under the corporate raider’s plan, Vodafone would buy Vivendi’s stake in mobile phone giant SFR and Maroc Telecom, while paybox Canal Plus would be hived off to Lagardere, which already owns 20% of the unit.

Vik has reportedly approached the two companies, both of which have been hankering after the assets for some time. Vodafone, which owns 44% of SFR, has repeatedly tried to buy the remaining stake from the French media conglom, with no success. For it’s part, Lagardere topper Arnaud Lagardere said last week he would buy Canal Plus “tomorrow if necessary.”

Vik himself would hold on to the company’s stake in NBC Universal, Universal Music Group and the com-pany’s games unit until a suitable buyer could be found.

Both Vivendi and Vik, meanwhile, have been building up their arsenal of bankers and advisors for a potential showdown. Sebastian Holdings has Euros 19 billion in financing for the bid from his advisors Deutsche Bank and Bank of America, a source told Daily Variety.

In the break-up bid submitted ear-lier to Vivendi, the banks’ financing was said to be conditional on the French company’s approval of the document, i.e. there would be no financing for a hostile move. Vivendi prexy Jean-Bernard Levy said last Wednesday that even with the banks’ coin, Vik was missing an additional Euros 10 billion for a $49 billion bid.

Furthermore, Levy said the plan ignored a considerable tax break in place until 2010 if the company holds on to SFR and Canal Plus.

Vivendi is said to have called on long-time bankers Goldman Sachs and N.M. Rothschild to advise it on lines of defense against the Vik attack, a moved that runs counter to Vivendi’s claim that Sebastian Holdings’ offer was a “closed issue.”

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