Vivendi Universal acknowledged that it's in talks to buy
USA Networks Inc.'s TV assets, but dismissed the valuation asserted in a New
York Post article as 'totally absurd.'
Ever since buying control of Seagram and its universal film and music
properties last year, Vivendi Chairman Jean-Marie Messier has openly spoken of
stepping up his 43% stake in USA Networks to get control of the company.
Messier's eye is focused on USA Network, Sci Fi Channel and Studios USA.
'Our first priority is to take advantage of the synergies of movie/TV
production and distribution,' Vivendi said in a statement.
Vivendi is currently locked up in a standstill agreement with USA Networks
Chairman Barry Diller, so it can not buy stock in the open market to secure a
The prospect of a deal increased dramatically when Diller agreed to sell
USA's broadcast-TV stations to Univision.
As a French company, Vivendi could not buy U.S. broadcast licenses.
Salomon Smith Barney analyst Niraj Gupta estimated that USA's networks and
production units are worth $10 billion to $12 billion and expects that Diller
would walk off with USA's Home Shopping Network and Internet assets, including
Ticketmaster and Expedia.