Vivendi Universal reduces losses for last year

MUMBAI: France's Vivendi Universal has anounced that it lost less money last year. It reported a net loss of 1.143 billion euros compared to a year-earlier loss of 23.3 billion euros.

The company's chairman and CEO Jean Rene Fortou was quoted in a company release saying that the financial results for 2003 had exceeded its guidance." We reduced our debt from approximately 35 billion euros to 11.6 billion euros. We divested approximately 10 billion euros worth of assets.

"Today, Vivendi Universal is in good working order. In 2003, Vivendi Universal invested 1.6 billion euros of capital expenditures in its core businesses." As had been earlier reported by indiantelevision in October an agreement was signed by the company with General Electric to combine the assets of Vivendi Universal Entertainment and broadcast network NBC. This will give rise to a new entity NBC Universal. NBC Universal's 2003 revenues are anticipated to exceed $13 billion. As part of the transaction, GE is expected to pay at closing $3.65 billion of cash consideration, of which Vivendi Universal would receive approximately $3.3 billion. Vivendi will have a 20 per cent stake in NBC Universal.

The 2003 adjusted net income for Vivendi Universal amounted to 349 million euros. This compares with a loss of 514 million euros in 2002. There was an increase of 1,432 million euros in the operating income segment.

Fortou added, " Our main commitment was to improve considerably our operating cash flow and Vivendi Universal managers have focused successfully on this matter. As a result, our consolidated cash flow from operations grew 64 per cent in 2003 and our proportionate cash flow from operations increased almost four times over the previous year, on a pro forma basis."

Fortou stated that for the first time in six years the Canal+ Group had recorded a positive operating income. Revenues from the French pay-TV operations, Canal+ Group's core business, increased by six per cent to 2,813 million euros. Canal+ Group ended the year with nearly 8.1 million subscriptions to its Canal+ pay-TV offerings in France. On the flip side StudioCanal's revenues went down by 23 per cent to 351 million euros. This is in line with the company??s strategy to be more selective on its movie investments.

The Universal Music Group and Vivendi Universal Games are implementing a strong and determined reorganisation plan. Looking ahead to this year he said, "In 2004, I expect Vivendi Universal to deliver strong growth in its profit, to reach a level of debt below five billion euros at year end and be in a position to distribute dividends to its shareholders in 2005.

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