Vivendi said the company’s first quarter results were boosted by the growth of Universal Music Group whose revenues went up by 18.8% to €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion), as well as by the consolidation of Editis, the leading French-language publishing group, which Vivendi acquired in January.
Higher subscription and streaming revenues (+28.1%) as well as strong physical sales allowed UMG’s first-quarter recorded music revenues to rise by 19.2% compared to the same period last year. Recorded music bestsellers included new releases from Ariana Grande, the Japanese band back number and Billie Eilish, as well as continued sales of the soundtrack to “A Star Is Born” and multiple albums from Queen. The rise in subscription and streaming revenues countered the drop in digital sales (mostly downloads), which were down 18.2% compared to the first quarter of 2018.
Music publishing revenues grew by 4.7%, also fueled by increased subscription and streaming revenues, Vivendi said.
The company said it was moving forward with the sale of up to 50% of UMG’s share capital to one or more partners. The company will soon complete the selection of partnering banks and advisors. In January UMG was valued at around $44 billion by Deutsche Bank, but that was upped to $50 billion by Morgan Stanley the following month. Potential buyers mentioned in recent months include Liberty Media, Apple, Tencent and Google.
Meanwhile, Vivendi’s pay-TV company, Canal Plus Group, saw its revenues dip by 3.6% to €1.25 billion ($1.4 billion). Revenues from TV operations in France fell, even though the number of Canal Plus channel subscribers has increased in the past 12 months. Vivendi also said international operations continued to grow strongly and saw the number of “subscribers increased by nearly 700,000 over the past 12 months, with all regions of the world contributing to this improvement.”
Vivendi attributed a drop in revenue at Studiocanal, Canal Plus Group’s film and TV production/distribution arm, to the absence of a “Paddington” movie. “Paddington 2” had boosted Studiocanal’s first quarter earnings in 2018. A Paddington animated series is also planned for late 2019, and a “Paddington 3” movie is in the works.
Earlier this year, Vivendi sold its remaining interest in Ubisoft (5.9% of the share capital) for €429 million ($485 million), which allowed Vivendi to make a capital gain of €220 million ($250 million).