PARIS Vivendi (VIV.PA) is exploring alternative moves to extract cash from its Activision Blizzard (ATVI.O) unit after failing to sell part of its 61-percent stake in the U.S. video games business, the Financial Times reported on its website on Sunday.
One of the options Vivendi has explored during discussions with Activision includes a tender offer by the U.S. company for part of this holding funded by cash on its balance sheet or through a debt offering, the newspaper said citing people familiar with the talks.
Discussions over a possible cash payout come at a crucial time because from Tuesday Vivendi gains new powers to force the payment of a sizeable dividend from Activision, the newspaper added.
Current rules require Vivendi to secure the support of Activision's independent directors ahead of any dividend payment that takes the division's net debt above $400 million.
But as these rules expire on Tuesday, Vivendi would be able to gear up Activision's balance sheet and force the payout of a special dividend without the approval of independent directors.
A Vivendi spokesman declined to comment. No one at Activision was immediately available to comment.
As part of a move to cut debt and revive its share price, Vivendi wants to reduce exposure to telecoms, which now deliver 60 percent of operating profit, and focus on the media businesses, which include pay-TV in France, music, and video games.
Chief Financial Officer Philippe Capron said in May that Vivendi was still reviewing options for Activision.
(Reporting by Elena Berton; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)