Friday, October 13, 2000

Europeans likely to block merger of Vivendi, Seagram

Enquirer news sources

        PARIS — European authorities are expected to deny French conglomerate Vivendi clearance to buy Seagram Co., concerned that Vivendi's Canal Plus pay television unit would get preferential access to films from Seagram's Universal studios, a French newspaper reported Thursday.

        Le Monde reported that Mario Monti, Europe's top antitrust regulator, will temporarily block approval of the $30 billion mergertoday. The newspaper also said Mr. Monti will launch a four-month detailed inquiry into the deal.

        A decision expected in July had been deferred, and Vivendi was asked to provide additional information on the deal. That waiting period expires today. Vivendi plans to sell the Seagram's liquor business to finance the merger. Seagram's operates a distillery in Lawrenceburg that employs nearly 700 people.

        The deal would create a major media conglomerate called Vivendi Universal, linking Vivendi's large TV, satellite, Internet and wireless communications holdings with Seagram's Universal movie and music studios.

        EU authorities are concerned that Canal Plus access to film rights of Seagram's Universal Studios would lead to unfair competition.

        Negotiations with the EU are continuing, chief executive Jean- Marie Messier told investors and analysts at a conference Thursday, said Catherine Gros, a Vivendi spokeswoman.

        Simultaneously, Vivendi was holding an analysts' conference in Paris to convince markets of the rationale behind the creation of Vivendi Universal.

        Seagram's stock was off $2.75, closing at $54 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.


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