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Viv U gets big cash stash

Co. needs another $2.4 billion to $2.9 billion to see black

PARIS — Beleaguered media giant Vivendi Universal can buckle down to the serious task of spinning off assets after confirming Wednesday that it had received a 1 billion franc ($988.7 million) cash injection.

New topper Jean-Rene Fourtou moved quickly to reassure jittery investors, saying the loan “is concrete evidence of the continued confidence and support of our banks as we work to restore stability and strength to the finances.”

However, the group needs another $2.4 billion to $2.9 billion to fill the black hole in its long-term finances. And it is still under a cloud after France’s regulatory watchdog started a probe into the Gallic/American conglom’s finances (Daily Variety, July 9).

Assets on the block could include telecommunications affiliate Cegetal, in whom Vodafone has reportedly expressed interest, as well as paybox Canal Plus and the American entertainment holdings.

Impatient suitors

Canal Plus, which has been bleeding red ink due to loss-making Italian paybox Telepiu, has many suitors champing at the bit including media group Lagardere, French web TF1 and Gallic financier Vincent Bollore.

TF1 topper Patrick Le Lay wants the group’s satellite platform, CanalSatellite. But TF1 holds 50% of Gaul’s other satcaster TPS, limiting it to a maximum share of 15% in Canal Plus.

Another twist to the sale of Canal Plus is the fact that the Ligue des Football Professional (LFP), which controls TV soccer rights, plans to open bidding on the rights that come up for grabs in 2004.

CanalSatellite and TPS hold the rights, which they bought for $376 million in 1999, but the league is reportedly looking for $100 million more this time around.

Most of Canal Plus’ 1,882 subs signed up for soccer. If the paybox doesn’t win the rights — or can’t afford them — its price would be drastically lowered. And that’s something Viv U can ill afford.

“For the moment, we’re just waiting for the LFP to set the dates,” Pascal Adnar, a spokesman for Canal Plus’ sports services, told Daily Variety. “It’s not our role as buyer to make any move before the call for bids is launched.”

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