Following a hotlyanticipated board meeting on Tuesday, Vivendi Universal announced it wouldenter into further negotiations with the two primary bidders for its USentertainment assets.
As previously reported, thetwo remaining bidders are General Electric's NBC which, should it prove thewinner, would form an association between NBC and Vivendi UniversalEntertainment (VUE) to become "one of the world's largest mediacompanies," according to a Vivendi Universal statement released Tuesdayevening.
The other candidate is aconsortium of investors principally comprised of Cablevision and Thomas H. LeePartners and headed up by Vivendi Universal vice chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr.
John Malone's LibertyMedia withdrew from the bidding process late on Monday night.
In the Vivendi statement,the company said the board had "expressed its satisfaction with the highlevel of interest shown...and has decided to enter into further negotiationswith the two strongest bidders. Both bids include industrial and financial aspects(debt deconsolidation and cash or cash equivalents). In both cases, VivendiUniversal would maintain a substantial minority interest in a US mediacorporation with excellent growth potential."
Vivendi also reiterated thepossibility of an IPO for VUE "which would take place after theimplementation of strategic alliances aimed at strengthening its televisionactivities."
Pundits now say Vivendi willeither make a quick decision or wait until early 2004 as the company haswritten off sufficient debt and extended bank credits in order to meetrequirements for 2003.