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By Leila Abboud and Gwénaëlle Barzic
PARIS, Nov 14 (Reuters) - European media group Vivendi posted a rise in profit that beat expectations on Friday due to cost cutting and the performance of its music business, while it stayed mum on plans to use billions earned from selling telecoms units.
Vivendi, which is nearing the end of a strategy overhaul began in spring 2012, more than doubled the profits attributable to the group to 839 million euros in the third quarter, including the proceeds from selling Maroc Telecom and a stake in headphone maker Beats.
Pro-forma third-quarter sales fell 0.9 percent to 2.4 billion euros, while adjusted net profit more than doubled to 189 million euros.
Analysts were expecting sales of 2.6 billion euros ($3.24 billion) and net profit of 151 million euros, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
“These were strong numbers at the EBITA level, 12 percent ahead of consensus,” said Charles Bedouelle, Exane BNP Paribas analyst. “We expect a positive reaction on Monday morning.”
The figures were shorn of Brazilian broadband unit GVT after Vivendi agreed in September to sell the business to Spain’s Telefonica for 7.2 billion euros.
The GVT deal is expected to close in the second quarter of next year, and the sale of French telecoms group SFR to Numericable on Nov. 27, Vivendi said.
A streamlined Vivendi now owns Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest music label, and pay-TV operator Canal Plus, which has activities in France, Poland, Vietnam and Africa.
It will also own minority stakes in SFR-Numericable, Telefonica Brasil and Telecom Italia.
Chief Financial Officer Herve Philippe said Vivendi would look for opportunities to sell the telecoms stakes in the long term.
Shareholders will have to wait until early next year for decisions on any share buybacks or dividends to return some of the nearly 25 billion euros proceeds from asset sales.
Vincent Bollore, Vivendi’s largest shareholder and board chairman, has said only that he wants it to become a media powerhouse through growth of existing music and TV businesses, although acquisitions are possible.
Vivendi shares have risen almost 50 percent since late March 2012 when it said there should be “no taboos” on restructuring to unlock value. They have climbed 6 percent this year to close at 19.85 euros on Friday, outperforming a 1.3 percent rise in the European media index.
1 US dollar = 0.8005 euro Editing by Astrid Wendlandt and Jane Baird