Exclusive: Vivendi may put GVT sale on hold after low bids - sources

LONDON/SAO PAULO Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:52pm EST

Jean-Francois Dubos, Chairman of the Management Board and CEO of Vivendi, speaks during the company's 2012 annual results presentation in Paris February 26, 2013. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Jean-Francois Dubos, Chairman of the Management Board and CEO of Vivendi, speaks during the company's 2012 annual results presentation in Paris February 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

LONDON/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - France's Vivendi SA (VIV.PA) could put the sale of its Brazilian phone and broadband Internet company GVT SA on hold as bids are coming short of the asking price of 7 billion euros to 8 billion euros, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Only two bidders remain in the auction process, the sources said. DirecTV (DTV.O), the largest U.S. satellite-television provider, is offering 6 billion euros ($7.9 billion) for GVT, a first source said. DirecTV is offering to pay two-thirds of that amount in cash and the rest in stock, the source added.

A consortium of buyout firms led by KKR & Co (KKR.N) is offering up to 5 billion euros for GVT, both sources said. BTG Pactual Group (BBTG11.SA), which was also looking at the company, has pulled out of the auction, the second source said.

That same source noted that Vivendi would be inclined to stop the process unless the offer is raised closer to the asking price.

"Vivendi is not in a rush to sell," the source said.

Bankers and analysts were split over the outcome of the sale, with some saying Vivendi will resist selling GVT at a low price, while others bet it will give in to pressure and agree to a sale of the Brazilian company ahead of its April 30 shareholder meeting in Paris.

Calls to a Paris-based Vivendi spokesman seeking comment were not immediately answered. Spokespeople for DirecTV and KKR could not be immediately reached for comment.

Vivendi is looking to scale back its presence in telecommunications to focus more on its media assets, in a bid to boost its sagging share price. The company is penalized by a conglomerate discount, meaning investors undervalue it as a whole because of the wide range of its subsidiaries. Shares in Vivendi have lost about two-fifths of their value in the past five years.

It decided last summer to sell GVT as it reviews its portfolio of businesses in mobile telephony, videogames and music. Europe's largest media and telecommunications company is also seeking a buyer for its controlling stake in Maroc Telecom (IAM.CS).

A final decision on the GVT auction has not yet been made.

A purchase price of 7 billion euros would be more than twice the roughly 3 billion euros Vivendi paid in 2009 for GVT, an alternative provider of fixed telephone, broadband, and TV services in 120 Brazilian cities.

The unit, bankrolled with 2 billion euros from Vivendi, has spent heavily to build its high-speed fiber broadband network.

(Editing by Andrew Hay)

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