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Raider Vik sticking to his Viv breakup plan

Investor stays on course despite conglom's dismissal

CANNES — Norwegian investor Alexander Vik is still gunning for Vivendi Universal, even though the French conglom dissed his E38.6 billion ($49.8 billion) breakup plan last week as “totally mediocre.”

Vik, whose investment vehicle Sebastian Holdings owns more than 4% of Vivendi, has been trying to drum up support for his plan from Gallic media and defense firm Lagardere and British telco giant 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 rest of it from Vivendi with no success.

For its 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 company’s games unit until a suitable buyer could be found.

Both Vivendi and Vik, meanwhile, have been building up their arsenal of bankers and advisers for a potential showdown.

Sebastian Holdings has E19 billion ($24.35 billion) in financing for the bid from his advisers Deutsche Bank and Bank of America, a source told Daily Variety.

In the breakup bid submitted earlier to Vivendi, the banks’ financing was said to be conditional on the French company’s approval of the document: There would be no financing for a hostile takeover attempt.

Vivendi prexy Jean-Bernard Levy said May 17 that even with the banks’ coin, Vik still fell short.

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 longtime bankers Goldman Sachs and N.M. Rothschild to advise it on lines of defense against the Vik attack — a move that runs counter to Vivendi’s claim that Sebastian Holdings’ offer was a “closed issue.”

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