Vivendi Universal recorded a net loss of Euros1.14bn for 2003, down from the record breaking loss by a French company of Euros 23.3bn that it registered in 2002.
The group said that the results reflected tighter management of costs and the disposal of several assets, although the sale of the US studio assets (Vivendi Universal Entertainment), announced in October, have not yet been completed.
Pay-TV subsidiary Canal Plus provided one of the most dramatic areas of improvement. It recorded a Euros247m operating profit, compared with a loss in 2002 of Euros295m - although there was a Euros165m write-down to the value of its international assets.
The company said that there was a Euros15m decrease in the operating profits of VUE, but that this unit would have reported a 39% increase had it been shown on a stand-alone, pro forma, dollar and US accounting basis.
Chairman and chief executive Jean-Rene Fourtou forecast that Vivendi Universal will generate net profits in the current year and should be in a position to pay a dividend to investors.
The sale of VUE to NBC will not be completed until the end of the first half of this year. (It will give Vivendi Universal $3.3bn of cash and allow it to reduce its debts by a further $3.2bn.) After that Vivendi Universal will retain a 20% stake in the new NBC Universal.
NBC Universal, which was described by Fourtou as "one of the world's most profitable and fastest-growing media companies," will have assets that include the NBC Television Network, Universal Pictures, television production studios (NBC Studios and Universal Television), a portfolio of cable networks, the NBC TV stations group, Spanish-language TV broadcaster Telemundo and its 15 Telemundo stations and interests in five theme parks.
On a pro forma basis, NBC Universal's 2003 revenues would have been more than $13bn and 2003 EBITDA exceeded $3bn. Vivendi Universal will hold three out of 15 seats on the Board of Directors of NBC Universal.