Bollore Drives Vivendi Growth in Africa With Pay-TV Channel

Billionaire Vincent Bollore is expanding pay-TV operator Canal Plus in Africa by starting a new channel in the region after taking over last month as chairman of owner Vivendi SA.

The new local channel of Canal Plus, France’s largest pay-TV provider, will be called A+ and will begin service in October, the company, based near Paris, said at a news conference today. The move signals Canal Plus’s shift from distributing French channels abroad to producing local content away from home.

“This is the extension of our international strategy, which should gain importance,” Canal Plus Chief Executive Officer Bertrand Meheut said. “Africa is proof that we can have very strong growth.”

International business currently accounts for 40 percent of Canal Plus’s earnings and subscribers, Meheut said. Vivendi stands to benefit from 62-year-old Bollore’s experience in the region. The businessman’s own company Bollore SA, based in Puteaux, France, runs the largest transport and logistics operations in Africa across 46 countries, according to its website.

In Africa, Canal Plus’s offering will compete against operators including Napsers Ltd.’s Multichoice.

Vivendi shares rose 0.2 percent to 17.70 euros at 10:27 a.m. in Paris, paring the decline to 7.6 percent this year.

Bollore is also Vivendi’s largest shareholder, with a 5 percent stake. He took over as chairman to finish transforming the company, which has sold telecommunications and video-game assets for more than $30 billion, into an integrated media group around Canal Plus, record company Universal Music Group Inc. and Brazilian Internet provider GVT.

E-Commerce Platform

European retailers, carmakers and phone companies are turning to Africa for growth. Last month, grocer Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA announced a joint venture with Bollore to extend an e-commerce platform to Africa.

Sales of TV services in Africa and the Middle East will grow about 10 percent to 11 billion euros ($15 billion) by 2016, according to Montpellier, France-based researcher Digiworld by Idate. Telecommunications services revenue in the region is forecast to increase by about a quarter during the same period, making up a 112-billion-euro market, as more people buy mobile phones, the researcher said. About 40 percent of households in the region own a television, while half of people own mobile phones, it said.

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