Vivendi may sell off part of its water arm

Vivendi Universal’s board of directors gave Chief Executive Jean-Marie Messier permission to cut the company’s stake in water utility giant Vivendi Environnement, according to media reports.

Vivendi Universal, the world’s second-largest media company, may sell a 20% stake in the water utility in order to cut debt, reports WaterTechOnline.

The move would reduce Vivendi’s stake to about 40% from 63%, according to articles in the French newspaper daily La Tribune. Part of the stake would be sold on the market and the rest reserved for institutional investors in France.

At the same time, Vivendi Environnement, France’s largest water and sewage company, plans to raise more than €1 billion of additional funding through a possible sale of new shares, news reports said.

Vivendi Universal’s stock slid more than 5% on Thursday after a marathon board meeting failed to produce an action plan to cut debt. Reuters reported that Vivendi, in a statement after the meeting, sidestepped the question of asset sales, and instead highlighted the setting up of an “oversight committee”, seen as bringing Messier under the wing of powerful shareholders.

The media reports said Vivendi’s debt is at about €17 billion and the company’s stock has lost 45% of its value this year alone.

Messier has come under fire for not delivering a clear picture of his plans for the group, which posted a €13.6 billion net loss in 2001.

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