The Paris-based conglomerate that operates popular European media assets like Canal Plus, may sell all or part of its stake in Activision to help unlock value in its disparate media and gaming assets, according to a Bloomberg report. Vivendi also owns Universal Music Group and telecom assets in France, Morocco and Brazil.
Vivendi took control of Activision in 2007, when it merged its Blizzard gaming unit with Activision in a push to create the world's largest video games company. Activision shares have held up well in recent trading amid increased competition from free Web games offered by the likes of Zynga (ZNGA) that has weakened shares of video game makers Electronic Arts (ERTS) and Take-Two Interactive (TTWO), both off over 25% in the past 12 months.
Still, when Vivendi bought a controlling stake in Activision in 2007 for $9.8 billion, the deal valued Activision shares at $27.50, meaning that a disposal will likely lead to a loss, even after two-for one share split.Vivendi has yet to decide whether to use proceeds from a prospective sale to launch share buybacks or increase investment in its other media assets -- if it in fact sells all or parts of Activision, sources toldBloomberg. Activision Blizzard shares fell over 6% in early trading on Thursday but the decline was halved to 3% in mid-morning, higher than usual volume, trading. After reaching a post-crisis peak of $14.40 a share in November, Activision shares have fallen and are now down nearly 4% year-to-date, recently trading at $11.70. Activision is Vivendi's fourth largest business with nearly $5 billion in revenue and its second fastest grower after more than doubling profit in 2011. The Vivendi deliberations over Activision have been in the press for a while. In April, Bloomberg reported that Vivendi was considering a split up, where its media businesses Activision, Canal Plus and Universal Music would form a separate company from its telecom and media distribution assets. That followed November reports Vivendi might sell up to $431 million of Activision, or 35 million shares, at a price of $12.30. Santa Monica, Calf.-based Activision makes the video games "Guitar Hero'' and "Call of Duty',' while Vivendi's Blizzard unit makes top seller "World of Warcraft." When combined, Activision Blizzard's revenue of $4.8 billion in 2011 made it the largest video game publisher, outpacing Electronic Arts (ERTS) $4.1 billion in 2011 revenue. Activision, which in the first quarter reported earnings of $384, a 25% drop from the same period last year, more than doubled profits to $1.1 billion in 2011 after reporting net income of $418 million in 2010. Currently, 21 analysts rate the Santa Monica, Calif- based company a buy and two analysts rate shares a hold, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The consensus analyst price target for Activision shares is $15.59. For more on Activision, see what new games it is offering. --Written by Antoine Gara in New York.
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