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VIVENDI, SEAGRAM DEAL CLEARS FRENCH HURDLE

CSA Pleased With Messier’s New Plan To Carve Up Canal Plus, Gives Merger Thumbs-Up
French broadcasting watchdog CSA said on Wednesday (7/26) it had cleared Vivendi's merger with Seagram and Canal Plus after Vivendi agreed to change the future structure of its French pay TV unit, Reuters reports.

The merger to create Vivendi Universal had hit a legal hitch over the way it carves up pay TV group Canal Plus' French business, and concerns of the deal being halted circulated. The CSA asked Vivendi to rework its proposals.

"The CSA believed that the first project submitted did not conform to the anti-trust law [that says a single shareholder cannot own more than 49% of a French TV company]," the CSA said in a statement.

The regulator said it had demanded Canal Plus' French division maintain its economic and financial independence, which meant it had to keep full ownership of its subscriber list, a direct relationship with subscribers and subscription revenues.

"Under these conditions, the CSA has decided not to oppose the project submitted to it," it said.

While analysts said they had not expected the French legal hitch to halt the deal, Vivendi's Chairman Jean-Marie Messier was forced to soften his position after initially saying there was no need to alter the original merger terms.

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