The Canal Plus group (which now includes Universal Studios) is expecting a substantial rise in its operating and net earnings as well as its subscription base in 2001.

The pay-tv giant -- which will announce its 2000 results, along with Vivendi Universal's, today after the close of the Paris Stock Exchange - is vigorously denying a report and analysis published in French daily Le Figaro.

Canal +, the statement stresses, expects to see its global subscriber base grow by 10% in 2001 (including 15% to its digital satellite platforms and 30% to its digital channels).

In 2000,subscriptions grew 9% globally (gaining 1.24 million subcribers) and 32% to its various digital platforms and channels (a 1.3 million gain).

For the past few weeks the French and foreign press have been speculating that Vivendi's boss Jean-Marie Messier was keen to see Canal Plus out of the red as soon as possible, and that a cost cutting campaign (in programming expenses, among other items) was on the agenda. The company registered a Euros 23m operating loss (and a Euros 336m net loss, including an expected massive investment in the new digital decoder) in 1999, on a Euro 3.3bn income.