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By | October 18, 2000

      Vivendi SA has agreed to sell its 23 per cent stake in British Sky Broadcasting Group, Europe’s second- largest pay-TV company, to secure European regulatory approval for its $44 billion (E51.73Bn) acquisitions of Seagram Co and part of Canal+ SA, according to reports.

      By agreeing to sell the 23 per cent stake, worth around $6-8 billion, Vivendi will avoid an extended probe by the European Union’s antitrust commission. The EU plans to announce it will clear the deal soon, reported Bloomberg.

      Jean-Marie Messier, Vivendi’s CEO, is buying Seagram, which owns Universal music and film studios, and Canal+, Europe’s largest pay-TV company. He wants to rival America Online Inc, which is acquiring Time Warner Inc.

      “Our company doesn’t want to stay with minority interests and be a sleeping partner like we are in BSkyB,” said Eric Licoys, Vivendi’s chief operating officer, adding that he had not been informed of the commission’s decision.

      The commission said it has not decided whether to approve the acquisitions and will make a decision soon, according to a statement.

      Over the past year, Vivendi has built up its holding in BSkyB, which is worth $8 billion, based on the average share price over the last six months.

      • A green light from the commission will allow for the creation of a new company, Vivendi Universal, with access to Seagram films such as Erin Brokovich and Gladiator, plus musicians including Sheryl Crow and Sting. Vivendi can use the content on Canal Plus’ pay-TV services and Vizzavi, Vivendi’s 50:50 Internet venture with Vodafone Group.

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