Vivendi to Sell Activision Stake Worth About $850 Million

Vivendi SA, once the controlling shareholder in video-game maker Activision Blizzard Inc., is selling half of its remaining stake in an offering valued at more than $850 million.

The sale of 41.5 million shares is being made under an existing agreement, Santa Monica, California-based Activision said yesterday in a statement. The sale is equal to 5.8 percent of Activision and the sale price will be announced today before Nasdaq trading starts, Paris-based Vivendi said today.

The sale frees up cash for Vivendi, which has been restructuring and sold most of its stake in Activision last year in a deal led by Bobby Kotick, chief executive officer of the leading U.S. video-game publisher. The French conglomerate has announced more than $30 billion of asset sales to focus on units including pay-TV business Canal Plus and record label Universal Music Group.

Vivendi will be left with 41.5 million shares, or about 5.8 percent, of Activision, the maker of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Vivendi is barred from selling additional shares until 2015 in accordance with terms of last year’s agreement, according to an April 4 filing. The company’s intention is to eventually sell all its Activision shares.

Activision declined 1.6 percent to $20.53 at the close in New York and has gained 15 percent this year. Vivendi added 0.4 percent to 19.05 euros in Paris and is little changed this year.

New Strategy

Vivendi is revamping its strategy around television and music and plans to return 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion) to shareholders by 2015 through dividends and share buybacks after completing planned divestments.

Last month, Vivendi agreed to sell France’s second-largest phone company SFR in a $23 billion deal to billionaire Patrick Drahi, who controls Numericable Group, the country’s largest cable operator. Last week, Vivendi completed the sale of Moroccan phone company Maroc Telecom.

Vivendi plans to unveil the details of its new strategy after its annual shareholders’ meeting on June 24. It has also scheduled management changes for that date, with Arnaud de Puyfontaine taking over as chief executive officer from Jean-Francois Dubos. Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou, who oversaw the company’s revamp, will cede his position to Vivendi shareholder and billionaire businessman Vincent Bollore.

Barclays Plc and Credit Suisse Group AG are acting as joint managers and underwriters for the Activision offering.

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