Vivendi Dumps 20% Stake in NBCU

Vivendi is selling its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal in a move that will allow it to fully control all its businesses for the first time.

The sale of its NBCU minority stake in what are likely to be two stages was announced Thursday morning and was necessary for Comcast to finalize its deal for a 51 percent stake in an expanded NBCU.

Vivendi had partnered with General Electric to form NBCU in 2004 after in late 2000 pushing into the entertainment space via a merger with The Seagram Co. and Canal Plus, which then-CEO Jean-Marie Messier wanted to use to make the former water conglomerate sexier.

Despite its planned divestiture of its NBCU stake, Vivendi will continue to have a hand in the media and entertainment business via its ownership of Universal Music Group, French pay TV firm Canal Plus, of which it is looking to buy full control as well, and Activision Blizzard, which is publicly traded.

“We are now opening a new chapter in the group’s history,” said Jean-Bernard Levy, chairman of the Vivendi management board. “Once this agreement is completed, Vivendi will have exclusive control of all its assets. More coherent, and more focused on rapidly growing countries, with a stronger presence in communications and entertainment businesses that it has managed for many years, Vivendi is determined, at the start of the new decade, to pursue its profitable growth strategy.”

GE will pay Vivendi $2 billion in Sept. 2010 for more than a third of its NBCU stake if the Comcast-NBCU deal isn’t done by done, with the rest to bring Vivendi $3.8 billion at the time of the Comcast deal’s close.

If the Comcast transaction fails, Vivendi said it would launch an accelerated initial public offering of its remaining 12.34 percent stake in NBCU.

The company will also continue to receive quarterly dividends from NBCU until the close, with GE guaranteeing added payments if the 2010 dividends to Vivendi come in below $268 million.

Nielsen Business Media