Slow going for Vivendi auction

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Vivendi Universal has made little outward progress in the auction of its U.S.
entertainment properties in the three weeks since its board reviewed bids for
Vivendi Universal Entertainment and immediately rejected just one player, oil
billionaire Marvin Davis.

Since then, the process has been a series of meetings and gradual exchange of
data, not the kind of shootout some of the U.S. cowboys are accustomed to.

An executive with one bidder saw no sign that things will speed up. "They’ve
set a series of meetings in the next two weeks. They’re having discussions of
the value of the different offers, contract markups. This is tedious when you’re
doing it with one party -- they’re doing it with more."

Bids for Universal’s movie studio, theme parks and USA Networks were
submitted June 23, valuing the operation at $11 billion-$12 billion.

The most intensive discussions, not surprisingly, are with the three
companies that actually submitted bids: Liberty Media Corp.; an investor group led by
Vivendi board member and former Seagram Co. Ltd. CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr.; and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

NBC is said to still be interested in forming some sort of a partnership with
VUE so the broadcast network can get its hands on cable’s USA Network and Sci Fi
Channel.

MGM has grown frustrated enough to demand that Vivendi speed up the
due-diligence process, particularly by delivering more detailed data on its
operations faster.

The studio sent Vivendi a letter raising its offer to $11.5 billion,
conditioned on receiving more complete information by this week.

Vivendi rejected the demand, but industry executives disputed reports that the
company also dismissed MGM completely.

The executives said the French company’s bankers are still sending MGM some
data.

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