Vivendi Universal, the French group that earlier this week agreed to merge with NBC to create a $40bn media colossus, is understood to be planning to sell half of its stake in the UGC cinema circuit.

A consortium of minority shareholders brought to the table by the Verrechia family, looks set to clinch the deal. Guy Verrechia is currently president of UGC while the family has the majority of board seats.

Vivendi currently owns 55.3% of UGC but under the new deal it will shift some of its capital into the business in order to up its stake to 80% before ceding half.

Now that Vivendi is preparing to divest most of the rest of its entertainment interests, analysts suggest that it's unlikely the company will hold onto UGC for too long. Vivendi was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, although local reaction to the NBC deal amounted to an admission of French failure, feedback from Vivendi subsidiary Canal Plus was more sanguine.

Although the company lost both its chairman and its core identity during the Vivendi Universal era, one Canal Plus insider brushed off news of the merger saying: "It doesn't really affect us, we're more concerned with how our new shows are doing."

As for the future of StudioCanal, the production entity which, for years, has been among the most prolific European producers - one executive who has worked with the company says, "I can't see a future for it outside of its obligations, they're not doing anything over there and they aren't putting money down on big projects. During negotiations for the sale of Universal they couldn't make any big promises and now they won't start any films that aren't almost completely financed."

Indeed, the company hasn't announced a big film in months.