Universally positive revs for Vivendi

Entertainment buoys results

Vivendi Universal may have bid au revoir to its entertainment assets this month, but the division nevertheless helped boost the Gallic firm’s first quarter 2004 bottom line.

Viv U (which says it’s keeping the “Universal” portion of its corporate name despite having ceded the studio to NBC) reported Thursday that operating income at VUE was up 15% over the same period in 2003, thanks to strong performances from the Universal Television Group and improvements at Universal Parks and Resorts. On a constant currency basis, the division’s bottom line gained 27%.

Universal Pictures Group, however, saw operating income decline 13% (and up only 2% on a constant currency basis) compared to last year.

Earlier this month, VUE reported revenues of $1.8 billion for the quarter, a 21% year-on-year gain on a constant currency basis.

Overall, Vivendi Universal slashed its first quarter net loss to $7.3 million (E6 million), from a $387.7 million loss in the same period last year, on revenues of $7.2 billion.

In a sign of improved financial health, operating profit was up a better-than-expected 10% to $1.13 billion, including $299 million from the recently sold VUE, compared with $258.8 million in the first quarter of 2003.

Gallic pay TV operator Canal Plus Group posted operating profit of $89.9 million compared with $192 million a year earlier, after the sale of its money-losing Italian pay TV unit Telepiu in April 2003.

Universal Music narrowed its operating loss to $19.4 million from $34 million.

Vivendi’s telecom businesses SFR and Maroc Telecom generated an operating profit of $866.6 million, compared with $732.9 million in the same period last year.

However, losses at Vivendi’s games unit widened to $54.7 million from a loss of $29.1 million.

Viv U’s net debt stood at $13.3 billion at the end of the first quarter but has fallen to $8.51 billion since the NBC-VUE merger.