April 24, 2024

In a comeback worthy of “Succession”‘s patriarch Logan Roy, French billionaire Vincent Bolloré has re-emerged from a fictive retirement to engineer a strategic overhaul of his listed media empire, Vivendi.

After seemingly passing on the reins of Vivendi to his sons Yannick and Cyrille last year, Bolloré stepped back in with a plan to split the French conglomerate into three businesses – pay TV group Canal+, advertising banner Havas and an investment vehicle comprising Lagardere Group — that would each be listed separately at the Paris stock exchange.

The supervisory board of Vivendi has approved the exploration of this three-way split which, if pursued, will see the Vivendi brand disappear along with Bolloré’s initial “synergy” strategy which was his mantra when he became the conglom’s largest shareholder in 2012. News of the forthcoming shift has been greeted with enthusiasm as Vivendi’s stock valuation climbed to €9.98 per share.

In the last 10 years, Vivendi’s annual turnover fell from €29 billion to €10 billion after it divested high profile assets including Universal Music Group. But shareholders — which include Bolloré — have gotten richer in the process. Bolloré scored a major coup by listing Universal Music Group and giving Vivendi shareholders ownership of 60% of the music powerhouse whose talent roster includes Taylor Swift and Drake. In its first day at the Euronext Amsterdam exchange, UMG’s shares skyrocketed by 39% to reach a valuation of nearly $53 billion.

The idea behind breaking down Vivendi into separate businesses is to help Bolloré and Vivendi shareholders seek a higher valuation for Canal+ and Havas and better leverage the growth of these assets.

“Since the distribution and listing of Universal Music Group in 2021, Vivendi has endured a significantly high conglomerate discount, substantially reducing its valuation and thereby limiting its ability to carry out external growth transactions for its subsidiaries,” said Vivendi when announcing it was mulling this three-way split.

Under the explored overhaul, Vivendi’s shareholders would have stakes in three thriving businesses instead of one. The pay TV group Canal+ would be listed as one banner comprising Dailymotion and GVA, as well as South Africa’s Multichoice Group, Hong Kong-based OTT service Viu International and Viaplay, the Scandinavian streaming platform.

The second entity will revolve around Havas, a leading advertising and marketing banner, while the third will be an (unnamed) investment vehicle comprising Lagardere, the French media, publishing and travel retail conglomerate, Prisma, the press group, video game banner Gameloft and stakes into Prisa in Spain and 10% in UMG.

Canal+ Group, which is led by Maxime Saada, has expanded internationally through a series of acquisitions and currently boasts a subscriber base of over 25 million in nearly 50 countries. Enders Analysis’ Francois Godard anticipates some synergies and/or rebranding between some streaming entities under the Canal+ vertical. Canal+ is only on track to acquire France’s second biggest pay TV group OCS and its film/TV production/distribution arm Orange Studio in a deal that is currently being examined by the anti-trust board.

Havas, meanwhile, brings together over 23,000 employees across more than 100 countries. The investment company, said Vivendi, would comprise “would actively support the strategic development of its portfolio companies … through targeted reinvestment policy.” All three businesses would be attached to a subsidiary of Bolloré’s family holding.



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