Vivendi pushing for Platco

CEO Messier open to deal on News venture

PARIS — The waltz between Vivendi head Jean-Marie Messier and Rupert Murdoch continued Monday, Messier taking two steps forward and one step back in his pronouncements on Platco.

In an interview, Messier confirmed reports that Vivendi was ready to swap its 24.4% stake in News Corp.’s BSkyB for a strategic partnership in Platco, which would bring together Murdoch’s worldwide satellite operations.

More than financial

He told the daily Le Figaro: “If it were only a financial operation, that would be of limited interest. This discussion is about whether the two groups, News Corp. and Vivendi, can become partners in the key area of satellite broadcasting and related Internet and interactive services.”

Messier apparently sees a value in holding a 10%-12% stake of a global entity like Platco rather than keeping its bigger but less useful stake in BSkyB.

Meanwhile, News Corp. is highly interested in gaining access to Vizzavi, the much coveted multi-access portal joint venture between Vivendi and Vodafone.

But before a deal can be struck, Messier told Le Figaro, there is the thorny problem of Stream to resolve.

News Corp. owns 50% of Stream, the No. 1 Italian digital platform, while Vivendi owns 49% of Canal Plus, which owns 99% of Telepiu, Stream’s main competitor in Italy.

Italian tangle

Messier said: “Rupert Murdoch is aware that it’s the only perimeter problem to resolve with regard to Platco. Vivendi cannot imagine itself being an indirect shareholder of a Telepiu competitor.”

In addition to Stream and BSkyB, News Corp.’s other satellite TV interests include Asia-based Star TV, Star Latin America and Australia’s Foxtel. Platco will also incorporate the interactive TV software company News Digital Systems and the program-listing service TV Guide Intl.

Messier warned: “If we have to reach a strategic agreement for Platco, we will have to find a solution for Stream.”

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