Vivendi Universal is to sell animation studio Ellipse Animation, a division of television producer and distributor Studio Expand, to French comic-book publisher and cartoon producer Dargaud Marina.

The deal will create the largest French animation company as well as one of the biggest European animation catalogues.

Along with existing series like Monsieur Bonhomme and Bambou et Compagnie, Dargaud will add Les Mysterieuse Aventures de Fantomette, Tintin, Babar and feature films Becassine and Corto Maltese to its collection via the deal.

Although the long awaited Corto Maltese film was a relative disappointment at the box office, the cartoon and brand name are of very high value.

The move is part of Vivendi Universal's strategy to sell the production activities of Studio Expand to help it raise reduce its debt burden.