Vivendi Universal - which has seen its net income jump 60%, to Euros 2.3bn, and revenues rise 37% to Euros 41.8bn in 2000 - will meet its aggressive growth and synergy targets in 2001 and 2002 according to chairman Jean-Marie Messier.

At a conference call on March 9, Messier said: "We have already met goals which were considered too ambitious" stressing that the media and communication division - which contributed Euros 13.6bn in revenues, Euros 600m in operating profit and Euros 2.2bn in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) - will reach its growth target of 10% in revenues and 35% in EBITDA for the period 2001-2002.

Plans are already implemented to reach the anounced Euros 420m target in 'cost synergies' and Euros 220m in 'revenue synergies'. "It does not mean more job cuts," he said, adding "the good ones are still working with us." Cost-cutting concerns mostly headquarters, operations, logistics, information technology systems and acquisitions.

Messier also strongly dismissed rumours concerning stagnation and increased loss at Canal Plus. The European pay-tv operator (15.3 million subscribers, including 5.3 million to digital services) is expected to see a 10% rise in subcription take, including 30% to digital services. "I see no stagnation here." quipped Messier.

The Canal Plus group saw its revenues increase 17% in 2000, to Euros 3.8bn, EBITDA reaching Euros 507m (up 22%). Net profit figures (accounted at Vivendi Universal's level now) are no longer available for subsidiaries. Cashflow breakeven for Canal Plus' European 'studio operation' StudioCanal is expected in 2001.

Vivendi Universal's TV and film division -- which includes Canal Plus, Universal Television and Networks Group, Universal Pictures, StudioCanal and Universal Studios Recration Group -- registered Euros 4.24bn in revenues (from Euros 1.15bn in 1999), EBITDA at Euros 526m (from Euros 89m in 1999). Vivendi Universal's 2000 figures included Seagram results for a 23-day period after the merger.

Messier has also confirmed he was ready to up Vivendi Universal's 43% stake in USA Networks, through a share swap, involving the group's 20% stake in BSkyB - which has to be sold within two years anyway, due to a EU merger ruling - and Liberty Media's 21% share of USA Networks. Vivendi Universal is also willing to acquire Liberty Media's 27.42% share in European premium and themed channels operator MultiThematiques.