Updated from 1:38 p.m. EDT
The thrill of the chase has worn off. And the chase isn't even over.
fell Tuesday, one day after
pulled out of the bidding process for the French conglomerate's U.S. entertainment subsidiary.
With Liberty the fourth of the six original bidders for Vivendi Universal Entertainment to be eliminated from the auction process, Vivendi Universal's share price continues to move with the size of the crowd perceived to be interested in buying the company's assets.
As Vivendi Universal's board met Tuesday to consider the fate of its movie studio, TV properties and theme parks, shares in the media-giant-wanted-to-be fell 2%. But the stock recovered somewhat in the afternoon upon Vivendi Universal's release of a confident-sounding progress report following the board meeting. Shares closed at $16.93 Tuesday, down 8 cents.
The stock is down 18% from the 52-week high of $20.69 set June 16, the day that reports emerged that Liberty Media Chairman John Malone was hammering out a deal to buy the assets in question for a price in the range of $12 billion to $14 billion.
Shares closed at $19.95 one day later, after
Vivendi Universal said that it had a half-dozen bidders for its properties, but that it could IPO Vivendi Universal Entertainment if no bids were satisfactory.
But since that moment when Vivendi spun its tale of a seller in control of the auction process, the tire-kickers have done some spinning of their own: These are a fine set of properties on the block, but Vivendi is seeking new-car prices for a used vehicle. "The synergy opportunities with our other businesses are not sufficient to support the expected transaction value," is how a Liberty executive put it in a statement Monday.
That argument certainly jibes with mood of the market these days, which seems to have burned off most the giddy optimism once exhibited by, say, French utility company executives who dreamed of leading a worldwide media/entertainment/telecommunications colossus.
So now the once-apparently-hot properties are being pursued, if that's the word, by only two outside entities: NBC parent
, and a consortium led by once-burned (yet still, presumably, giddily optimistic) Vivendi-mergee Edgar Bronfman Jr. -- and including serial overextender
In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Vivendi Universal reported that its board "expressed its satisfaction with the high level of interest shown in these assets." Both of the bidding scenarios, said the company, imply that Vivendi Universal would end up with a "substantial minority interest" in a U.S. media corporation "with excellent growth potential."
But it appears the bids aren't excellent enough to keep Vivendi Universal from continuing to explore an IPO of VUE. Such an IPO, says Vivendi Universal's board, "would take place after the implementation of strategic alliances aimed at strengthening
VUE's television activities."
And despite the high level of interest in the VUE assets, for some reason Vivendi Universal's stock price is substantially lower now than it was when the company had a higher number of bidders interested in VUE.
For investors who aspire to play mergers-and-acquisitions news, there's a lesson in here somewhere.