The possibility of a sale of Universal appeared to grow more real this week as Vivendi Universal confirmed a series of meetings between new chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou and senior US management.

Vivendi Universal has so far maintained that the US studio does not figure in the disposal plans, which call for $9.98bn (Euros10bn) of asset sales over the next two years. But executives within Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE), the unit that contains the studio and theme parks, have indicated that they would be in favour of a demerger or a separate stockmarket flotation for VUE.

Fourtou is scheduled to travel to the US to meet Universal Music chiefs in New York and Universal Studios bosses in Los Angeles ahead of a Sept 25 board meeting, which is to detail the disposal schedule. He is also expected to meet VUE boss Barry Diller. The news emerged as Vivendi Universal confirmed a number of smaller disposals.

Vivendi Universal today (Aug 30) sold its 50% stake in the Vizzavi internet portal to joint venture partner Vodafone, although it will take over Vodafone's interest in Vizzavi France. The deal brings in $140m (Euros143m) and is expected to save the group Euros171m in development costs in the financial year to March 2003.

It confirmed that it is in talks with Belgian state phone company Belgacom and Flemish cable operator Telenet for the sale of its Benelux pay-TV operations. The two companies report that Vivendi Universal is asking some $292m (Euros300m) for the division, but financial analysts predict that it will be sold for less.

The magazine publishing activities of its consumer press division and Comareg are to be sold to Socpresse for a total of $292m (Euros300m), it ewas confirmed today.