After a 1.6% fall on their first day of trading mostly due to technical arbitrages, Vivendi Universal shares livened up a flat French stock market on Tuesday (Dec 12), opening at Euros75.25, for a 1.69% gain.

The bullish trend - helped by the fact that Vivendi Universal opened up 3% at $65 on Wall Street the previous day - was sustained. The shares grew 2.8% to reach Euros76.80 by midday.

The new combine can also take comfort from the fact that Universal Studios is vying with Disney for the largest box office haul of 2000. With Dr Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas topping the US charts for the fourth week in a row, the US studio could break the $1bn barrier this year.

Vivendi Universal chairman Jean-Marie Messier confidently told journalists on Monday that he expects the company's market capitalisation to rise to over Euros100bn as the shares climb to Euros115-Euros120 early in the new year.

"The group will truly be without debt by January 1 and will have within two years a further Euros10bn margin for manoeuvre thanks to cash flow and the disposal of assets, notably our stake in BSkyB," said Messier. He expects to finalise the buyer for the Seagram drinks group later this month and complete the transaction in the first six months of 2001. After that he expects analysts and investors to focus on the group's core activities.