Vivendi has called off its attempt to establish a long-term alliance with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Vivendi chief executive Jean-Marie Messier, in an interview with the UK's Financial Times, said that severing the difficult relationship with News Corp would be of benefit to the complicated merger that Vivendi is engineering with France's Canal Plus and Universal Studios' owner Seagram.

"Being an active partner of Murdoch is not easy. If you add the EU issue, it is just too complex to extract value," said Messier.

The sale of Vivendi's 22.7% stake in News Corp-controlled UK pay-TV group BSkyB was a condition imposed last month by the European Commission in return for approval of the three-way merger. Vivendi was given a year to dispose of the holding, but the EC left the door open for Vivendi to exchange the BSkyB shares for a smaller stake in Sky Global Networks, the holding company that Murdoch is establishing for all his satellite TV interests.

Messier says he now intends to sell the shares for cash or other media assets - their current market value is some $6.7bn - through a private transaction.

Messier and Murdoch are understood to have clashed over Vivendi's surprise acquisition of the BSkyB stake from Pathe two years ago and, more recently, over relations between the two groups' rival Italian pay-TV operations.

The move also leaves Murdoch freer to pursue the flotation of Sky Global and the possible acquisition of giant US satellite broadcaster DirecTV.