French media group Vivendi Universal has denied that there is any foundation to reports in the UK press that claim that the company is exploring the possibility of selling its 23% in BSkyB to institutional investors.
Vivendi CEO Jean-Marie Messier pledged late last year to dispose of the stake within two years as a condition for European Commission approval of Vivendi's takeover of Seagram. Messier, however, has stated that he would prefer to exchange the holding, currently valued at $4.2bn, for assets in another media company, such as USA Networks, in which Vivendi already has a 43% stake.
However reports say that some bankers suggest that Vivendi Universal would be able to obtain a much better price from the market than from a single strategic investor. Messier has pledged not to offload the stake in a way which would depress BSkyB's share price. However, by Monday (June 4) lunchtime, BSkyB shares dipped to a recent low of £7.005 on the London market, down 2.2% on the day. A public holiday in continental Europe meant that the Paris bourse was closed.