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Viv U tech company sale subject of probe

Magistrates look into sale of Canal Plus subsid

PARIS — The shortcomings of Jean-Marie Messier and other ex-managers at Vivendi Universal have kept Gallic investigators busy, but attention is now turning to Viv U’s current toppers and Canal Plus Technologies.

Magistrates are probing the sale of the Canal Plus subsid, maker of the technology that goes into set-top boxes, one of many assets sold to pay down the $30 billion debt accumulated during the Messier era.

Central to the probe’s concerns is why Viv U managed to get only $255 million for the company from Thomson Multimedia in 2002, when a year later Thomson sold it and made $146 million on the deal.

To give Viv U some due, it owned only 89% of Canal Plus Technologies when the deal was struck with Thomson, while 15 months later Thomson owned 100% of the subsid, which it broke up and sold to two buyers.

In a sternly worded communique evoking “malicious prosecution,” Viv U insisted Tuesday that nothing untoward took place during the sale and threatened to sue anyone intending to harm Viv U’s share price by suggesting otherwise.

The disposal was “properly conducted in accordance with the corporate interests of Vivendi Universal and Group Canal Plus,” Viv U asserted.

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