Vivendi Sales Trail Estimates on Mobile Price War

Vivendi SA, the owner of French phone carrier SFR, reported fourth-quarter revenue that trailed analysts’ estimates on wireless competition with Iliad SA and Orange SA.

Sales fell 4.6 percent to 5.95 billion euros ($8.2 billion), trailing the 6.03 billion-euro average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg. Net income excluding some items more than doubled to 292 million euros, helped by lower taxes, Paris-based Vivendi said today.

Vivendi last year sold stakes in video-game developer Activision Blizzard Inc. and Maroc Telecom SA for about $14 billion. It’s now preparing to spin off SFR to focus on media assets including Canal+ and Universal Music, and Brazilian broadband provider GVT. Sales at SFR fell about 7.1 percent.

“Falling sales at SFR is very largely compensated by growth of the group’s other companies,” Vivendi Chief Financial Officer Herve Philippe said on a conference call today.

Vivendi dropped 1.5 percent to 20.94 euros at 9:05 a.m. in Paris, giving the company a market value of 28 billion euros.

Yesterday, Vivendi said it received an approach about a potential “alliance” between SFR and cable provider Numericable Group SA.

Altice Approach

While Vivendi and Numericable have held talks on and off in the past year without being able to agree on valuation, owner Altice SA, founded and chaired by Patrick Drahi, is making a renewed push to consolidate telecommunications assets in Europe, people familiar with the matter said last month.

Vivendi’s board will meet at the end of March or early April to discuss its dividend, ahead of a shareholders meeting June 24 to vote on the split of SFR, the CFO said.

Net income jumped to 1.97 billion euros in 2013 from 179 million euros in 2012 as a capital gain on the sale of Activision offset a writedown on SFR, Vivendi said.

The sale of Vivendi’s stake in Maroc Telecom will be completed in the coming weeks, Philippe said.

Shareholder Vincent Bollore will take over as chairman to replace Jean-Rene Fourtou, who led the former French utility for more than a decade. Bollore, the largest shareholder in Havas SA, joined Vivendi’s supervisory committee in December after selling his television assets to the company. He owns about 5 percent of Vivendi.

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