Well, better late than never.
At Vivendi Universal's annual meeting Tuesday, CEO Jean-Rene Fourtou, made it clear he wanted to sell, or cede control of, the company's television, movie and theme park businesses, which operate under the Vivendi Universal Entertainment partnership, as well as Vivendi's music and video game businesses.
"There is really no point in thinking we can develop VUE and grow the business, knowing it's in Los Angeles and we're here," said Fourtou (as rendered by the company's simultaneous translator). "Do you think that we can singly become a lead player in U.S. television? That would be deluding ourselves."
But Fourtou offered no specific information about deals the company is considering, such as
rumored interest in Universal Music Group.
In any case, Fourtou's plans received cordial applause from attendees of Vivendi Universal's shareholder meeting, though they likely would have preferred that Fourtou's insights about the wisdom of owning U.S. entertainment companies had been shared by Jean-Marie Messier, Fourtou's predecessor and architect of the company's now-abandoned Hollywood strategy.
On Tuesday morning, shares in Vivendi Universal fell 3 cents to $15.80. The stock is less than half the price it was at a year ago, as a Messier-induced cash crunch sent shares plummeting.
Discussing Vivendi Universal's various media and entertainment units, Fourtou was clearest in his desire to shed VUE's movie, TV and theme park units. The theme park business, he pointed out, requires heavy investment, starting with real estate purchases. "With our cash situation, that's not realistic," he said.
The company might sell all or part of VUE, for cash and/or for cash plus a piece of the larger company that would be a buyer. "We're after cash, and we're after value," he said.
Regarding Universal Music Group, Fourtou said the company hadn't decided whether it should sell the unit soon, or wait until the music market "perhaps" improves. The music industry has to consider new business models, he said, making a specific reference to Apple's new iTunes online music service, and he is talkiing with Universal Music's management about how they might "reconfigure" the group to fight the downturn in the music industry. Commenting on a price for Universal Music is pointless, said Fourtou. "We have for the time being received no proposal to acquire this activity," he said.
As to where the company hopes to focus after its restructuring, Fourtou pointed to the telecom business, mentioning its majority stake in French carrier
and minority holding in Morocco's
Fourtou said the company might be interested in getting a majority stake in Maroc Telecom, but vowed Vivendi Universal wouldn't acquire a single share of the Moroccan firm before it had signed contracts to sell VUE.