Canal Plus Group, the Vivendi Universal off-shoot spanning its French television interests and StudioCanal, moved a step closer towards a separate stockmarket flotation with the appointment of Bertrand Meheut.

Meheut, a former chemical industry colleague of Vivendi Universal chief Jean-Rene Fourtou, was appointed president and chief operating officer of Canal Plus Group. He reports to Xavier Couture, who has the curiously similar sounding titles of chairman and chief executive officer.

In a statement Vivendi Universal said his job will involve "forming the new Canal and establishing the foundations for its future growth' One of his priorities will be to prepare the new Canal Plus's stock market introduction."

The old Canal Plus group was traded on the Paris bourse until it merged with Vivendi and Seagram in late 2000. Canal Plus' French TV interests currently have retained their own stockmarket listing with Vivendi Universal owning 49%, the maximum under French law. Vivendi would have to adhere to the same law on media ownership and would not be allowed to hold more than half of the new Canal Plus Group.

The appointment may also reinforce Xavier Couture, the former TF1 and TPS executive drafted in by Jean-Marie Messier to replace Pierre Lescure. Industry gossip has suggested that Fourtou had been keen to clear out all Messier appointments. But at the strategy press conference last week Fourtou paid generous compliments to Couture and his team.

In a separate move Vivendi Universal Games is likely to be floated on New York's NASDAQ technology stock market in early 2003. The flotation is likely to see Vivendi Universal raise Euros600m-Euros800m by selling off some 40%-49% of the company.