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Inside Move: Viv U sizes up suitors

Co. hopes to have a decision by mid-August

After months of speculation, media manipulation and corporate gesticulation, Vivendi Universal’s bankers this week will finally cast their eyes on a half-dozen bids for the French conglom’s entertainment assets. Viv U says it will have a resolution by mid-August, but also insists it won’t be rushed. It could be long summer for the folks at U.

The real, multibillion-dollar question on CEO Jean-Rene Fourtou‘s mind is: What’s it all worth? And if there’s no single slam-dunk offer, which will be the best group to get in bed with, assuming Viv will be riding along with at least a small minority position for a few more years?

Viv U is hoping the studio unit will be valued at $4 billion-$6 billion, with Universal Music Group fetching $5 billion and USA Networks up to $7 billion.

The private equity-backed teams — Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Marvin Davis/Brian Mulligan — will put up the biggest cash numbers, since they’re bidding for the whole ranch (movie and TV studio, music and theme parks). Then there will be John Malone‘s envelope, the contents of which might require a team of forensic accountants to fully comprehend.

Strategic plays like NBC or Viacom could be trickier to appraise since they will be cherry-picking. And, there’s always the possibility that Viv U will mix and match suitors — selling the studio and cable nets to NBC or Liberty and offering up problematic Universal Music Group to Bronfman as a consolation prize.

Lastly there’s darkhorse MGM, which, along with Malone’s Liberty Media, was last glimpsed making the rounds of possible investment partners.

Whatever the proposals look like at first, they’re more than likely to mutate. Some contenders have said privately they could form different bids with new partners as the process advances.

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