Vivendi to Return $7 Billion to Shareholders After Asset Sales

Vivendi SA, the conglomerate which has sold more than $30 billion of assets in the past year, said it will return 5 billion euros ($7 billion) to shareholders by 2015 through dividends and share buybacks.

After divesting its telecommunications businesses to refocus on media, Vivendi said today it will use some of the proceeds to pay a dividend of 1 euro per share, or 1.34 billion euros in total, on June 30. The board, headed by Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou, plans to use an additional 3.5 billion euros of “available cash” for more dividends and share buybacks this year and next, according to a statement from the company today.

Fourtou, who is due to step down in June and be replaced by billionaire businessman, Vivendi shareholder and Vice Chairman Vincent Bollore, is selling assets including French phone unit SFR to pay back debt and help turn the conglomerate into a content producer and distributor, owner of record company Universal Music Group, French pay-television station Canal Plus and Brazilian Internet provider GVT.

Vivendi on April 5 agreed to sell SFR to billionaire cable tycoon Patrick Drahi in a $23 billion deal. The company, based in Paris, had sold a stake in Activision Blizzard Inc. for $8.2 billion in October last year and is due to get another $5.7 billion when it completes the disposal of Maroc Telecom SA this year.

Returning cash to shareholders is a parting gift from Fourtou, as well as Chief Executive Officer Jean-Francois Dubos, who is also due to step down at Vivendi’s annual general meeting on June 24. Dubos’ replacement, Arnaud de Puyfontaine, a former Hearst Magazines International executive, was named last year to lead Vivendi’s remaining media assets, after the company’s board approved the planned separation of SFR in November.

Vivendi’s dividend of 1 euro for 2013, due to be paid this year, is stable compared to what was distributed last year for 2012.

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