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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 11:17 GMT
Vivendi accounts under investigation
Jean-Rene Fourtou
Jean-Rene Fourtou replaced Jean-Marie Messier
A legal inquiry has begun into whether media giant Vivendi Universal misled its investors by publishing false accounts.

The Paris Prosecutor is investigating a complaint filed by Vivendi shareholders who are alleging that false financial information was released by Vivendi under its former chairman, Jean-Marie Messier.

Officials from Vivendi in Paris declined to comment.

The prosecutor's office said the inquiry would look into the alleged publication of false balance sheets for 2000 and 2001.

It would also investigate allegations that false and misleading information had been published about the outlook for Vivendi Universal in 2001 and 2002.

The troubled company has been struggling to survive because it has 20bn euros (12.6bn) of debt from an acquisition spree by Mr Messier.

He was ousted in July and replaced by Jean-Rene Fourtou.

Legal tussles

In July the French stock market watchdog also decided to investigate Vivendi's accounts.

Under Mr Messier, Vivendi's share value collapsed by about 70% in a year as the company racked up the largest losses in French corporate history.

On Monday a French court granted Vivendi the right to prepare a counter bid against Vodafone for French telecoms group Cegetel.

The company, which already owns 44% of Cegetel, now has until 10 December to raise the funds necessary to make an offer for the smaller stakes held by BT Group and SBC.

Vivendi's board of directors is due to meet on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the future of Vivendi's stake in Cegetel.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Walker
"The company has been recording massive losses - around $13bn a year."
Juliana Ratner, Financial Times
"The board does have to discuss the Vodafone offer"
See also:

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