(Repeats to add Breakingviews link)
* 2013 revenue down 2 pct, adjusted EBITA down 23 pct
* Shares biggest faller on French blue-chip index
* SFR exploring "all potential opportunities",
(Adds analyst, trader comment, share price fall)
By Lionel Laurent and Gwénaëlle Barzic
PARIS, Feb 25 French media-and-telecoms company
Vivendi held off giving forecasts or proposing
dividends ahead of spinning off its domestic mobile brand SFR,
rattling investors who were hoping for some indication on a
Vivendi aims to spin off the SFR division, which has
suffered from an intense price war in France, as part of a
broader company restructuring to pay down debt and focus on
Analysts had expected Vivendi to comment on the 2013
dividend and the return of some proceeds from asset sales to
shareholders on Tuesday, when it reported a fall in underlying
annual profit in line with forecasts.
But Vivendi, which also owns Universal Music, French pay-TV
channel Canal Plus and Brazilian telecom operator GVT, said only
that the board was still reviewing the cash payout that would be
offered to investors.
The lack of outlook from Vivendi - which has also announced
the sale of the bulk of its stake in video-games unit Activision
Blizzard and operator Maroc Telecom as part of its overhaul -
dragged the company's shares down more than 3 percent, the worst
performer on the French blue-chip CAC-40 index.
"They have given no indication of what is going to happen,"
said Francois Chaulet, fund manager at Montsegur Finance, which
owns shares in Vivendi.
"They want to have the largest possible room for manoeuvre
on what they decide to return in cash...But for now buying
Vivendi shares is almost like writing a blank check to
management," he said.
Chief Financial Officer Herve Philippe declined to comment
further on SFR after Vivendi confirmed on Monday it had been
approached by cable group Altice over a tie-up between
the mobile brand and cable firm Numericable.
Vivendi said on Tuesday it would use SFR to take part in
consolidation in France's telecoms sector, "exploring actively
all potential opportunities".
Although SFR would typically be an attractive target for
rival mobile brands like Bouygues or low-cost upstart
Iliad, mergers among mobile operators are unlikely for
now because of opposition from competition regulators who fear
higher prices for consumers.
Likely alternatives would include a tie-up with
cable-focused Numericable, a straight spin-off, a stock market
listing or an extension of network-sharing deals such as the one
recently struck with Bouygues.
The drive to shed assets and bring in a new management team
under the chairmanship of billionaire Vincent Bollore has lifted
Vivendi's share price over the past six months. The sale of most
of Vivendi's stake in Activision Blizzard helped drive its 2013
net profit up tenfold to 1.97 billion euros.
Vivendi reported a 23 percent annual fall in adjusted
earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) to 2.4
billion euros ($3.3 billion), hit by moves to lower costs and
prices at SFR. Revenue fell 2 percent to 22.1 billion euros.
Philippe said the results were in line with the company's
Vivendi booked a 2.4 billion euro writedown on the
acquisition value of SFR, though it was more than offset by the
capital gain from selling shares in Activision Blizzard.
Vivendi has also announced the sale of its Maroc Telecom
stake to United Arab Emirates operator Etisalat, which
Vivendi's CFO said is due to be completed in a matter of weeks.
Analysts had expected revenue of around 22.3 billion euros,
gross operating profit of around 2.4 billion and net income of
1.4 billion, according to the average of analyst forecasts
compiled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
SFR, hurt by intense price competition from mobile upstart
Iliad, reported a 16.2 percent drop in earnings before
interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for 2013
to 2.77 billion euros.
SFR's subscriber base rose by 756,000 subscribers to 21.354
million in 2013.
Pay-television unit Canal Plus met guidance with EBITA of
661 million euros, down 1.9 percent.
The company's two other divisions, Universal Music Group and
Brazilian telecom brand GVT, saw a rise in core earnings to meet
($1 = 0.7285 euros)
(Additional reporting by Alexandre Boksenbaum-Granier; Editing
by Erica Billingham)