Media empire seeks to shed gaming subsidiaries.Vivendi Universal, the French media empire whose recent financial troubles prompted the departure of unpopular chief executive Jean-Marie Messier, is thought to be considering selling off its large videogames division, which includes studios and labels such as Blizzard, Sierra and Universal Interactive.
The company’s chairman, Jean-Rene Fourtou, told the Wall Street Journal Europe yesterday that the games business was non-core and expendable, although no decision has yet been made regarding its sale. Selling off the division could net up to 2 billion euro, with even the most conservative estimates weighing in at over a billion, which would go some way towards servicing the company’s 19 billion euro debts.
The games unit generates over half a billion euro in revenues and is considered an attractive proposition for games companies currently on the acquisition trail most notably Sega and Microsoft, both of whom are seeking to expand their portfolios at the moment. Sega wishes to bolster its strong financial position with expansion in Europe and the USA, while Microsoft needs to acquire games companies to provide software support for the Xbox.
Vivendi’s stake in French telecoms company Cegetel SA was also thought to be under consideration for sale, but reports now indicate that Fourtou is leaning against the idea of selling the 44 per cent holding. Vivendi’s share price has risen almost 8 per cent in response to the suggestion that the games division will be sold.