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VIVENDI UNIVERSAL SELLS PUBLISHING UNIT
Deal To Cut Debt Should Help Raise Sagging Stock

Vivendi Universal has reached an agreement to sell it business and health publishing unit to help reduce Vivendi’s debt by almost $900 million. The deal, which sells the unit to investment groups, should help boost the company’s stock which, except for the last five days, had been falling for most of this year. The company reported a $12 billion loss in 2001, and its share price has fallen by half since the acquisition of Seagram and Canal Plus in 2000.

In addition, Vivendi chief Jean-Marie Messier hopes the sale scores him some cool points. Just last Wednesday, he made changes at the company’s fledgling TV division, Canal Plus, by dismissing director Pierre Lescure amid employee protest. According to reports, Messier is under heavy fire and scrutiny regarding his handling of the Canal Plus crisis, and he’s scheduled to meet with Vivendi's board and shareholders Wednesday, and clarify his business strategy.

Board members are said to generally be in support of Messier. It's corporate accounting that's the latest focus of directors and nervous investors. According to recent reports, the company, which has used French accounting standards until now, has said it will (Mon Dieu!) adopt American accounting methods this month.

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