French media conglomerate Vivendi Universal [NYSE: V] yesterday revealed to shareholders its plans to divest the majority of its entertainment businesses and concentrate on its telecoms activities. Chief executive Jean-Rene Fourtou said the sale of Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE) was one of the main priorities for 2003, and that negotiations were already underway to sell VUE’s television production business, Universal Studios, the Universal Music Group (UMG) and a number of cable TV channels. Also highlighted for quick disposal were VU Games – the group’s electronic games business – and a number of theme parks.
Having racked up debts of more than EUR70 billion under previous chief executive Jean-Marie Messier, Vivendi is targeting a return to net profit in 2003. In 2002 it recorded net losses of EUR23.3 billion – the biggest ever in French corporate history – on sales of EUR28.7 billion. The group has said it will concentrate its efforts on developing its telecoms portfolio, at the vanguard of which is French fixed line operator Cegetel, which in turn owns a controlling stake in mobile company SFR. Vivendi also plans to increase its 35% stake in Maroc Telecom once the VUE sell-off is complete.