Vivendi Universal yesterday raised $1.5bn from the sale of a third of its stake in UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB. It appears to be amassing a warchest with which to build a TV production and distribution powerhouse. Last week it raised $1.07bn from the sale of some of its non-media businesses.
Vivendi Universal, which is already overhauling its interests in USA Networks, is expected to bolster TV production in Europe through Canal Plus, the overseas channels owned by its US studio Universal and its French channels business, Multithematiques. The company recently looked at buying UK independent Tiger Aspect through the Universal and Canal-owned Working Title Films, although talks proved fruitless.
Vivendi Universal, which earlier this year parked its 22% BSkyB stake with Deutsche Bank, said the placement of shares with institutional investors will be handled by Goldman Sachs and Deutsche. The company, which last week sold 9.3% of water and waste treatment arm Vivendi Environnement, said it will be in "a position to cover any needs that may arise from various opportunities for strategic partnerships in the US television and distribution segments".
Vivendi is thought likely to take over USA Networks' cable channels and film studios following talks between chairman Jean-Marie Messier and Barry Diller, chairman of USA Networks, that were announced this month. It is not clear whether this signals Diller's imminent departure from or a new role within the Vivendi Universal fold.