French giant Vivendi 'considers reach for Sky'
The French media conglomerate Vivendi is looking at a possible acquisition of pay-TV group Sky, as one of several options to expand the reach of its own TV group Canal Plus, three sources familiar with the matter said.
Vivendi has turned its attention to Sky after reviewing smaller pay-TV targets in Turkey and other fast-growing markets in Europe, one of the sources said.
Sky has a market value of £17.6bn ($26bn) but could cost Vivendi as much as £28bn including debt, the sources said.
Vivendi had yet to decide on whether or not to go ahead with an offer, the sources said, adding that the deliberations were at an early stage.
Any deal between Vivendi and Sky would bring together two powerful business personalities in Rupert Murdoch, whose Twenty-First Century Fox owns 39% of Sky, and Vivendi’s chairman and biggest shareholder, Vincent Bolloré, who recently raised his stake in the French group to 12%.
Vivendi is not thought to have yet made any approach to the boards and management of Sky or Fox, the sources said.
Spokesmen for Vivendi, Sky and Bollore declined to comment. Twenty-First Century Fox declined to comment.
Bolloré sees Canal Plus as core to Vivendi’s business and the company could not go ahead with an offer without his full support, the sources said.
“Ultimately what determines a deal is Vincent Bolloré,” one of the sources said.
Vivendi’s management is also busy fending off attacks from activist shareholder P Schoenfeld Asset Management (PSAM), which is asking for bigger payouts. Not everyone is convinced that a deal with Sky is the right way to go, the second source said.
A representative for PSAM declined to comment.
The prospects for a sale of Sky improved last year when Britain’s largest pay-TV company BSkyB bought nearly all of Sky Deutschland and all of Sky Italia, to become Sky Plc, realising Murdoch’s long-held ambition to combine his European TV interests in a single business.
The deal, which was designed to give Sky access to faster growing territories where pay-TV is not yet as popular or profitable as Britain, has also made Murdoch’s pay-TV assets more “saleable”, with several bankers seeing the move as the prelude to a possible sale.
Sky operates in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, and has around 20 million subscribers.
Several industry sources said the likely cost of buying Sky could prove too much of a stretch for Vivendi even with the proceeds from the sales of non-core businesses.