Vivendi phones in revs hike

First quarter up 23.7% from last year

BRUSSELS — First-quarter revenue at entertainment giant Vivendi was e6.5 billion ($8.9 billion), up 23.7% on the same period last year, the company reported Thursday.

Growth was driven mainly by consolidation in the Gallic group’s telco business after acquisitions last year.

Net profit for the quarter was $651 million, down 14% on last year. Drop is blamed on high interest payments following acquisitions.

Vivendi noted a sharp fall in income from its share in NBC Universal, from $72 million this time last year to $40 million in the current quarter. However, games business Activision Blizzard, created in July by the merger of Vivendi Games and Activision, reported better-than-expected results, with revenue of $998 million pouring in from globally popular franchises “Call of Duty,” “Guitar Hero” and “World of Warcraft.”

The division has raised its 2009 net revenue outlook to $4.3 billion, going by U.S. accounting rules.

Universal Music Group reported revenues of $1.4 billion, down 0.7% on the same period last year. The company attributed this relative stability to higher music publishing activity and increased recorded music sales in Europe, notably in France and the U.K.

Digital sales increased 27.2% to approximately 28% of recorded music sales in the quarter. Major sellers were titles from U2, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Japan’s Dreams Come True.

The Canal Plus Group reported revenues of $1.5 billion, up 0.4% on last year. Subscriptions to Canal Plus France are growing, particularly in overseas territories such as North Africa. Despite the unfavorable global economic context, the company foresees further growth through 2009.