- Associated Press - Sunday, April 3, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Vivendi SA said Sunday it agreed to acquire Vodafone Group PLC’s 44 percent stake in French mobile operator SFR for 7.95 billion euros ($11.3 billion).

The long-anticipated deal will give Vivendi full control of the company, which generates more revenue for the conglomerate than any other division. Vivendi already owns a 56 percent stake in SFR.

Jean-Bernard Levy, chairman of Vivendi, said in a statement late Sunday that the purchase will help the telecommunications and entertainment giant focus on profitable growth and innovation.

“The transaction will create a significant increase in Vivendi’s adjusted net income, enabling us to raise the dividend to our shareholders,” he said. Vivendi said the price represents 6.2 times SFR’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

The deal is expected to be completed by June. As part of the transaction, SFR and Vodafone will extend their joint commercial co-operation for another three years.

Vodafone, one of the world’s largest wireless providers, has been under pressure from shareholders to unload some of its minority-owned assets. Late last year, the company said it has been cutting its operating sectors from three to two, and moving minority stakes outside those new divisions.

Vivendi’s Levy told reporters last month on the sidelines of a media conference in the Emirati capital Abu Dhai that it had the financial means to take full control of SFR. Vivendi sold its remaining stake in NBC Universal to General Electric Co. earlier this year. It received a total of $5.8 billion for its 20 percent interest in the U.S. company, which owns U.S. broadcast network NBC, the Universal Pictures movie studio and related theme parks and a number of cable channels. The deal laid the groundwork for cable giant Comcast Corp.’s takeover of NBC Universal.

Vivendi operates a range of businesses, including Universal Music, the record label behind Eminem, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber and Rihanna. It also controls video game maker Activision Blizzard, Brazilian telecom company GVT and Canal Plus television.



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