* Vivendi to spell out growth strategy after June 24 meeting
* Company is “reasonably optimistic” for 2014
* Digital, emerging economies help Q1 sales meet forecasts (Adds CFO comment, detail)
By Nicholas Vinocur and Gwénaëlle Barzic
PARIS, May 15 (Reuters) - French media and telecoms group Vivendi said on Thursday a tighter focus on media and content should drive growth in 2014, as it posted first-quarter sales in line with forecasts after the sale of SFR.
Chief Financial Officer Herve Philippe said the slimmed-down firm would offer more detail on its growth plans once a new management team, which is expected to include top shareholder Vincent Bollore, was selected in June.
Vivendi has largely completed a revamp to pay down debt and focus on media and content following the sale of three major assets, including its SFR telecoms unit, to rival Numericable last month.
The sale would give Vivendi at least 13.5 billion euros ($18.7 billion) in cash plus a 20-percent stake in the new entity, of which some 5 billion euros will be used to pay out dividends and buy back shares this year and next.
The plan to reward shareholders, which will be put to a vote at a June 24 shareholder meeting, caps a two-year strategic turn to refocus on media and cut exposure to capital-heavy telecoms activities.
Ahead of the June meeting, during which the billionaire corporate raider Bollore is expected to become chairman of the supervisory board, CFO Philippe said he was “reasonably optimistic” for Vivendi’s prospects over the rest of 2014.
“We will seize available (acquisition) opportunities in media and content,” he told journalists in a conference call, adding that the firm would be prudent.
With digital content and emerging market supporting growth, sales for the first three months of the year came in at 2.722 billion euros, up 2 percent organically and at constant currencies, in line with a Thomson Reuters consensus forecast.
“Having completely restored its financial flexibility, it has everything it needs to ensure its growth,” the company said in its results statement.
EBITA was 268 million euros, up 2.8 percent from a year ago on a constant currency and continuing businesses basis which excludes SFR activities and euro weakness. Including those factors, it was down 11.2 percent.
Shares in Vivendi were little changed on Thursday morning, up 0.8 percent in a flat broader market. (Editing by Andrew Callus and Jason Neely)