Vivendi surpasses markets expectations on telecoms, gaming

1 Mar 2010

French media and telecoms conglomerate Vivendi posted better-than-expected revenue and operating profit in 2009, driven by strong performances from both its gaming and telecoms divisions. However, net income was impacted by a one-off provision related to possible damages in a US-led class action lawsuit. The group’s chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy said that this year the firm would hopefully post ‘slight growth’ – on an adjusted operating profit basis – compared with ‘strong growth’ last year. Vivendi’s revenues were up 6.9% year-on-year to EUR27.13 billion (USD36.99 billion) for 2009. Earnings, before interest, tax, and amortisation (EBITDA) was up 8.8% year-on-year at EUR5.39 billion. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected EUR26.97 billion in full-year revenues and EBITDA of EUR5.25 billion. Net income swung to a loss of EUR839 million in 4Q09 though due to a provision related to the threat of a US class action law suit, in which shareholders won a case alleging Vivendi misled them about the state of the group’s finances from 2000-2002.

The French group’s telecoms operations – including France’s second largest mobile operator SFR and Moroccan PTO Maroc Telecom – performed solidly, both in terms of revenues and profits. SFR posted turnover of EUR12.43 billion last year, up 7.6% y-o-y and EBITDA was unchanged at EUR2.53 billion. Levy forecasts the unit’s FY2010 mobile EBITDA will be slightly lower, although he predicts growth for fixed line and broadband activities. Vivendi added that its gaming division reported sales up 50% y-o-y at EUR3 billion.

SFR added a net 743,000 new mobile customers last year, fuelled by strong demand for the Apple iPhone which shipped 670,000 units between April and December 2009. The surge in demand for smartphones helped boost data revenues to 23.7% of all mobile revenues in 2009, compared to 17.7% in 2008. Meanwhile broadband internet and fixed line telephony revenues topped EUR3.78 billion, down 1.3% on a comparable basis compared to 2008. Excluding the impact of a 9.5% drop in switched voice revenues, regulatory changes imposed by Arcep and Vivendi’s decision to offload Club Internet in H1 2009, broadband internet and fixed revenues would have increased by 4.2% year-on-year, it said.

France, SFR