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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 22:53 GMT 23:53 UK
Vivendi calls for second vote
Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Marie Messier
Messier will try again to have executive stock options passed
The board of troubled media giant Vivendi Universal has called a new annual general to reconsider resolutions it claims were voted down through computer hacking.

At last Wednesday's meeting, chief executive Jean Marie Messier survived as head of the world's second largest media group but disgrunted shareholders voted down executive stock options and a new share issue.

On Sunday, Vivendi made the surprise announcement that it would take legal action after discovering "systematic dysfunction" in the electronic voting system.

It is the latest twist in a saga during which Mr Messier has fired the chief of the group's pay television unit Canal Plus and been lampooned by a latex puppet on his own television channel.

The second attempt at an AGM is reportedly scheduled for 3 June.

Vote hacking

The news came as Vivendi posted a loss of 17bn euros in the first three months of the year.

During 2001, Vivendi racked up a loss of 13.6bn euro (8.4bn), the biggest in French corporate history, due to writedowns on assets acquired at the height of the technology and media boom.

Vivendi's share price fell a further 1% to 36.4 euro on Monday adding to a 70% fall over the last two years.

Suspicions over vote rigging were aroused when routine checks showed an unusually high abstention rate at last Wednesday's meeting.

Vivendi said it found no bugs in voting equipment and learned from shareholders, such as Societe Generale and BNP Paribas banks, that the abstention rate did not match up with votes that had been cast.

French law allows people to initiate criminal proceedings without naming a suspect.

Frozen dividend

Vivendi's allegation come six weeks after the firm's Canal Plus Technologies unit accused rival NDS Group, of stealing its smart card security code and publishing it on the internet, allowing pirate viewing of its cable service.

In its statement on Sunday, the company said it would freeze funds earmarked for its 2001 dividend payment while the investigation was underway.

The company had initially planned to pay a total dividend of 1.09bn euros, or 1 euro per share, on 13 May.

Chris Potter, PriceWaterhouseCoopers
"It all depends on how network security is set up, whether hackers could break in."
See also:

26 Apr 02 | Business
Vivendi cries foul over AGM ballot
22 Apr 02 | Business
Vivendi wages war on two fronts
05 Mar 02 | Business
Vivendi posts huge loss
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