Vivendi Looks To Universal IPO As Music Group And Canal+ Prove Bright Spots In Muted Quarter


By Jonathan Easton

French media group Vivendi has said that it plans to list Universal Media Group.

Universal is the world’s biggest music label, and is the home to some of the world’s largest pop artists including Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and U2. The plan was announced following Vivendi’s quarterly results in which Universal’s revenues were up 3 per cent.

The IPO, planned for 2022 would be used to pay back debts and finance share buyback programmes, the group said.

CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine told reporters that “We’re indeed inclined to anticipate what was (an) initial plan.”

A December 2019 deal in which Chinese ecommerce and tech giant Tencent bought 10 per cent of Universal valued the music publisher at €30 billion(US$35.60billion). Tencent also has an option to buy an additional 10 per cent of Universal’s share capital up to mid-January 2021.

Universal, the biggest money-maker for Vivendi, was a bright spot for the company which saw narrow overall growth to €4 billion – up 0.7 per cent for the quarter.

Canal+ recorded strong revenue growth from its international operations in the third quarter, but the gains were largely stripped out by currency movements.

The pay TV outfit saw its Q3 revenues grow by 7.3 per cent year-on-year for the quarter to €1.38 billion, but the increase in constant currency terms was only 0.9 per cent.

For the first nine months of the year, Canal+ grew its revenues by 6.6 per cent, but revenues dropped by 0.8 per cent at constant currency, taking its total to €4.054 billion for the year to date.

The group’s ‘total subscriber portfolio’ reached 20.4 million, up from 19 million last year, including 8.6 million subscriptions in France.

Revenues in mainland France were however down in reported terms, by 1.6 per cent, due to a COVID-19-attributed dip in advertising.

International growth continues to be the engine behind the group’s recovery. Revenues from international grew by 27.4 per cent, or 4.3 per cent at constant currency, with 1.2 million subs being added year-on-year, including those from its M7 acquisition.

Production outfit Studiocanal saw revenues plummet by 19.6 per cent as filming and distribution of movies were hit by the pandemic.

Parent group Vivendi saw revenues rise by 1.3 per cent or 0.7 per cent at constant currency in Q3, taking its total to €4.022 billion. Revenues for the year to date grew by 2.4 per cent but declined by 1.1 per cent at constant currency, taking its total to €11.598 billion.

Vivendi said that Universal and Canal+ demonstrate “the resilience of their subscription-based activities” amid the difficult economic climate.

Vivendi’s ad business Havas however was heavily impacted by the pandemic, with revenue declines of 10.4 per cent for the quarter, though this is slightly improved from the 18.3 per cent loss in Q2.

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