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Vivendi turns activists into shrinking violets

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Investor Dan Loeb participates in a panel discussion in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., May 9, 2012. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

LONDON, June 22 (Reuters Breakingviews) - So much for the value of dissent. Activists like veteran Wall Street agitator Dan Loeb’s Third Point look to have turned conformists on Tuesday as Vivendi (VIV.PA) secured 99.9% of present votes at its annual meeting to spin off and list a 60% stake in Universal Music. That’s despite some investors such as U.S. fund Artisan Partners criticising the strategy read more , which includes a pact to sell an additional 10% stake to Bill Ackman’s blank-cheque vehicle and keep a remaining one-tenth in the Vivendi rump that houses Vincent Bolloré’s medley of media and publishing assets.

True, Bolloré’s control of nearly 30% of the voting rights always gave him the upper hand read more . Still, independent-minded minorities might have hoped that Loeb – who owns a substantial Vivendi stake and has past form in taking on dominant family shareholders at Campbell Soup (CPB.N) – would have pushed to extract better terms from Ackman. On 24 times estimated 2021 EBITDA, a modest premium to peer Warner Music (WMG.O), Universal might have an enterprise value of 40.5 billion euros, using Bernstein figures. The valuation for Ackman’s deal was only 35 billion euros. (By Christopher Thompson)

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