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Vivendi Prepping ‘Potential’ Stock Listing of Universal Music Group

Vivendi has begun work on a “potential listing of Universal Music Group,” its largest asset, according to reports from a company shareholder meeting in Paris. The news was first reported in Financial Times and Reuters.

Vivendi chief executive officer Arnaud de Puyfontaine said at Thursday’s the meeting: “We have started work that will allow us to present the benefits of a potential listing of UMG to the supervisory board,” FT reported, citing Reuters. Representatives for UMG and Vivendi declined Variety’s request for further comment.

In an enthusiastic report in August, Goldman Sachs raised its valuation of UMG to $23.5 billion (from around $20.1 billion), a 16% jump, and Sony Music to around $20.1 billion, based on its prediction that worldwide revenues from streaming will reach a whopping $28 billion by 2030, a 16% jump from its previous estimates. Along with UMG and Sony, the two largest major label groups — which Goldman pegs as collecting “55-60 percent of royalties for every piece of content that is being monetized” — the report singled out Amazon, Pandora, Tencent, Apple and, to a lesser degree, YouTube/Alphabet as top beneficiaries from this growth.

2017 was a strong year for UMG, whose revenues were up 10% to $6.8 billion year-over-year at constant currency and perimeter, according to its earnings report. The company is helmed by chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge.

By that same standard, its recorded-music revenues grew by 11.3% to $5.5 billion while growth in subscription and streaming revenues — which were up some 35% — more than offset the decline in both download and physical sales. Music publishing revenues grew by 9.6%, also thanks to the boost in subscription and streaming revenues, as well as growth in synchronization and performance revenues.

Merchandising and other revenues were down 7%, due to lower touring activity.

The report singled out new releases from Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and Drake along with carryover sales from The Weeknd, the “Despacito” single from Luis Fonsi and the 50th Anniversary edition of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” as well as soundtrack albums from the movies “Moana” and “La La Land” as primary drivers of the year’s growth. It also pointed to agreements with Tencent, Spotify, YouTube and Facebook, as well as its existing partnerships with Amazon and Apple, as “fostering an increasingly competitive and dynamic market for music among the biggest tech platforms and music services in the world.”

UMG’s income from operations amounted to €798 million, up 18.5% at constant currency and perimeter year over year as a result of higher revenues, with EBITA at €761 million, up 20.6% year over year as a result of higher revenues and “lower restructuring charges.”

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