Vivendi sez it will keep BSkyB stake

Group in negotiations with News Corp.

PARIS — The French group Vivendi has dismissed reports in the British press that said it may have to divest its 24.5% minority share in BSkyB pay TV.

According to the weekend Observer, the British Minister of Industry and Commerce, Stephen Byers, may rule that Vivendi, as a shareholder in Europe’s main pay TV groups BSkyB and Canal Plus, would have undue influence in determining sports and cinema programming. BSkyB and Canal Plus together have a subscription audience of 20 million in Europe.

Antoine Lefort, head of international corporate communications at Vivendi in Paris, said the reports were just rumors, and that if they were true, “that would lead to concerns of political and partisan motivation.”

Observers in Paris said that the comment refers to possible moves by Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. has 40% of BSkyB, to curtail the influence of Canal Plus.

Lefort confirmed that is in negotiations with the News Corp. group over possible cooperation with Platco, which would bring Canal Plus into Murdoch’s future digital television holding company. There is speculation in the French press that Vivendi could trade in its shares in BSkyB for stock in Platco.

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