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VIVENDI UNIVERSAL THIRD QUARTER, NINE-MONTH RESULTS

Cash Crunch Over for Fourtou and Company?
Vivendi Universal yesterday announced its formal results for the third quarter and first nine months of 2002, saying the company generated operating income of 1.2 billion euros for the quarter (up 25% from the comparable period last year) and 3.5 billion euros for the nine months to date, an increase of 22% over last year. VU’s formal results include utility/water arm Vivendi Environnement.

Universal Musc Group reported Q3 revenue of 1.3 billion euros, down 9% from last year. For the nine months to date, revenue fell 5% to 4.2 billion euros. The decreases compared favorably to the overall decline in the industry, which was down 12.4% for the quarter, the company said. UMG’s marketshare remained at an all-time high of 31.4% in the third quarter, even while operating income dropped sharply due to the decline in sales, lower margins and higher provisions for returns and A&R costs.

VU Chairman/CEO Jean-Rene Fourtou said in a statement, “In late September, I announced that my main objectives would be to reduce debt, improve the profitability of the company’s core business units and focus on Vivendi Universal’s long-term strategy as a media and entertainment company. I am pleased to report that we have made progress on all three fronts.” Fourtou pointed out that the company will have sold 7 billion euros worth of assets by the end of the year, while floating 1 billion euros in notes. The company is also close to securing an additional credit facility, effectively ending its liquidity problems, Fourtou said.

Indeed, the company may now have enough cash to make a play for French telecom company Cegetel, which it has been in competition for with cell phone company Vodafone. Cegetel would further shore up VU’s finances, as it would be a consistent source of positive cash flow.

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