Viv U closes pay TV sale

Three units unloaded at the same time

BRUSSELS — Vivendi Universal’s sale of pay TV operation Canal Plus Benelux is done and dusted, according to Belgian economic daily L’Echo.

The newspaper claims top brass at the paybox have written to employees to say they have agreed to sell all three units, Canal Plus Belgium, Canal Plus Flanders and Canal Plus Netherlands, for e45 million ($51 million) — a far cry from the original $340 million asking price.

Canal Plus Belgium, which operates premium channel Canal Plus Belgique and a bouquet of digital cable channels in the French-speaking part of the country, is expected to be acquired by investment fund Deficom and a group of Belgian cable operators. The cablers, grouped under the Assn. Cable Multimedia, must get the deal approved at an Aug. 18 board meeting. Canal Plus Belgium’s channels have 185,000 subscribers.

Deficom was one of the founding shareholders in Canal Plus Belgium in 1989, but sold its 30.5% stake to Canal Plus in January 2000 for an estimated $61 million.

Canal Plus Flanders, meanwhile, is responsible for 202,000 subscribers of a premium channel and digital bouquet in the Flemish-speaking part of the country. Cabler Telenet is said to be the buyer for this section. The Dutch arm of the company will be sold to another buyer, possibly UPC.

Viv U’s desire to sell all three units at the same time could delay completion of the deal until the end of August.