Vivendi is reportedly considering concessions including selling its 20% stake in BSkyB in order to prevent the European Commission from launching a four-month investigation into its three-way merger with Canal Plus and Seagram.
The Commission has until the end of the day to rule on the deal. It was widely expected to greenlight the merger until reports emerged yesterday that it could open a protracted "phase 2" investigation, despite having already asked the three parties for additional data and moving the deadline for its decision from October 2 to 13.
Vivendi's BSkyB stake is understood to have arisen as a sticking point with the Commission, although the company is already in talks with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp about exchanging the holding for a small stake in Murdoch's global satellite platform, Sky Global Networks.
Vivendi is also believed to have already agreed to concessions including assurances that Canal Plus won't have preferential access to Universal Studios' film output, and that Vivendi's multi-access internet portal, Vizzavi, won't discriminate in favour of Universal Music.
The Commission has also reportedly suggested that Universal should pull out of international distributor United International Pictures within five years, although it is unlikely to insist on this concession if Vivendi agrees to sell its stake in BSkyB.
As speculation mounted over the Commission's verdict yesterday, Vivendi chairman Jean-Marie Messier presented to shareholders and analysts some of the cost-saving synergies and projected revenues that Vivendi Universal hopes to enjoy.
The combined entity claims a shareholding equity of Euros57bn and forecasts pro-forma revenues of Euros24.6bn for calendar 2000, a figure which is expected to rise 10% over a three-year period to 2002.
Vivendi Universal's music division is expected to contribute sales of Euros6.6bn during 2000, followed by the telecoms division with Euros5.8bn, Canal Plus with Euros4bn, filmed entertainment with Euros4.6bn and publishing with Euros3.5bn.
The so-called "access" divisions (Canal Plus and telecom activities) are expected to grow 15-20% over a three-year period, while "content" divisions (music, publishing and filmed entertainment) are forecast to grow 6-7%.
Vivendi Universal also expects cost synergies - including functional overheads, purchasing policies and logistics, among others - to contribute Euros420m to the consolidated pro-forma EBITDA in 2002.
In addition, revenue synergies, achieved through cross-divisional initiatives, have been estimated at Euros200m in 2002 and more than Euros400m in 2003. These include the combination of film production and distribution with thematic channels, Vizzavi and Cegetel mobile services with Universal Music and cross-content combinations, such as the use of film characters in video games.
The presentation, attended by 30 Vivendi Universal managers, including Seagram chief Edgar Bronfman Jr, Canal Plus' Pierre Lescure, Universal Studios' Ron Meyer and USA Networks' Barry Diller, is scheduled to move to New York on Tuesday (October 17).
"We felt we owed our shareholders and the financial analysts an in-depth presentation of the key components and growth potential of the new company," said Bronfman who will be vice-chairman of the group.