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Friday, 9 March, 2001, 16:12 GMT
Vivendi profits jump 60%
Publicity poster for Hannibal - a Vivendi Universal film starring Anthony Hopkins
The Universal acquisition was a high-profile move into film for Vivendi
Vivendi Universal, the French media and utilities giant, has reported a 60% rise in annual net profit to 2.3bn euros ($2.1bn; 1.5bn).

The results were the first since the French group completed a $34bn three-way merger with Canada's Seagram and French pay-TV group Canal+ last December.

Chairman Jean-Marie Messier said in a statement the 2000 results gave "a very solid foundation for the company's growth prospects in 2001".

"I am very confident that for media and communications, we will reach our revenue growth target of 10% and our aggressive... [pre-tax profit] growth target of 35% for the period 2000-02," he added.

He said Vivendi's "unique" combination of content and distribution channels gave it enormous growth opportunities.

Internet woe

On a pro-forma basis - under which the merged group's figures were extrapolated to cover the full year 2000 - operating profit was up 68% to 3.14bn euros while pre-tax profit was 48% improved at 7.21bn.

Vivendi said its internet activities were the only ones that failed to contribute positively to the pro-forma results.

"[Internet] development costs continue to have a negative impact on our accounts," Vivendi said.

The division posted an increased 184m euro loss during 2000, compared with a 34m euro loss the year before.

Internet revenue was sharply higher at 48m euros from two million euros in 1999.

Shares lower

Vivendi Universal includes interests as diverse as wastewater processing, telecoms, music, publishing, television and film.

Its acquisition of Seagram's film and music assets gave it Hollywood studio Universal.

Its water utility arm, Vivendi Environment, was spun off last July and has a separate listing on the Paris bourse.

SFR, Vivendi's telecoms arm, was one of only two operators to bid for a French third-generation mobile phone licence recently.

At 1532 GMT, Vivendi Universal shares were 1.35% down on the day at 69.55 euros.

Over the past year, Vivendi shares have lost about half their value and underperformed the Cac 40 index of leading French shares by 35%.

This was in line with a general fall among technology and media stocks worldwide.

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See also:

05 Mar 01 | Business
Vivendi 'to sell' AOL stake
30 Oct 00 | Business
Watchdogs clear $24bn media merger
13 Oct 00 | Business
EU clears Vivendi-Seagram merger
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