Declines at games unit offset upticks in music, TV

PARIS — Giant French conglom Vivendi saw profits dip in the first half of 2012 as declines at vidgame arm Activision Blizzard offset upticks in Universal Music and Canal Plus.

Adjusted net income fell 17% to €1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) as of June. At a Paris press conference, CEO Jean-Francois Dubos forecast full-year profits would top $3.1 billion.

Revenue slipped 1.2% to $17.6 billion.

And the company’s net debt hit a record $17.7 billion, although CFO Philippe Capron saw it heading lower by year-end.

Earnings at Activision fell 31% to $718 million, due in part to the timing of game releases, Vivendi said. Revenues fell 6.8% to $2.1 billion, but are expected to bounce back in the second half with three highly anticipated launches: “World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria,” “Skylander Giants” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.”

Revenue at Canal Plus rose 3.3% to $3 billion on higher subscriptions and advertising sales, and a 19% jump at sales arm Studiocanal.

Universal Music saw revenue nose up 3.2% to $2.4 billion, driven by an 8.9% increase in digital sales, music publishing, improved recorded music sales in North America, and favorable currency fluctuations. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was a major hit. Second-half releases will include The Killers, No Doubt, Robbie Williams and the Rolling Stones.

Next month, Vivendi anticipates formal regulatory approval for its acquisition of EMI Recorded Music. French authorities are in the process of approving Canal Plus’ purchase of DTT channels, Direct Star and Direct 8.

Vivendi has been actively refinancing, setting up a pair of five-year bank credit facilities worth a total $3.2 billion.

And the board has been scrutinizing its assets for potential sales and exploring strategy since former CEO Jean-Bernard Levy left in June. Earlier this month, Vivendi appointed Canal Plus topper Bertrand Meheut to review its media biz and Jean-Yves Charlier, former CEO of Colt Telecom, to examine telecoms.

“We remain totally committed to creating shareholder value, growing (profits) and keeping a strong credit rating,” said Dubos. “With this in mind, we will continue to work, together with the supervisory board, on Vivendi’s strategic development.”

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