* Vivendi H1 core profits up 49%
* Universal's listing scheduled Sept. 21
* Universal plans investors day on Aug. 25
PARIS, July 28 (Reuters) - Vivendi's most prized division
Universal, the music label behind artists like Justin Bieber and
Taylor Swift, drove group first-half results, bolstering its
position two months before its planned spin-off and listing in
The transaction, carefully designed over the last two years
by Vivendi's top investor, Vincent Bollore, aims to cash in on
the music industry rebound, underpinned by booming streaming
revenues but also a recent surge in sales of vinyl records and
With an estimated enterprise value of 35 billion euros ($41
billion), according to Vivendi, Universal Music Group (UMG) is
worth more than the market value of its own parent company.
The spin-off involves the distribution of 60% of Universal's
shares to Vivendi's shareholders.
The deal has become high profile in the United States, as
billionaire Bill Ackman plans to buy 10% in the company after he
failed to do so via a special purpose acquisition company
Universal's core profits represented about three quarters of
Vivendi's first-half earning before interest, tax and
amortization (EBITA), at 753 million euros.
Vivendi's other key subsidiaries, pay-TV Canal Plus,
advertising group Havas and publishing unit Editis, also
contributed to core profits, which rose by 49% from a year
Group revenues over the period were up by 12% to 8.22
While benefiting Vivendi's shareholders in the short term,
the separation of Universal would strip the group of its most
valuable asset, which represents 75% of the group's total
valuation, according to broker Bryan Garnier.
During the call, several analysts pressed Vivendi's
management about what the company could do to support the
stock's price following Universal's spin-off.
Chief Financial Officer Hervé Philippe said that a shares
buyback program was "absolutely a possibility."
Analysts also asked about the mounting challenge faced by
Canal Plus after e-commerce giant Amazon recently seized most of
France's broadcasting rights for the Ligue 1 soccer matches.
The move could be a game changer for the French TV market,
biting Canal Plus' market share in what used to be its main
"We've got a problem," Vivendi's chief executive Arnaud de
Puyfontaine said, insisting that the price the pay-TV was paying
for the remaining matches it could broadcast was too high
compared to what Amazon would pay.
Several legal procedures were under way, he said.
Universal's market debut and spin-off are scheduled for
Sept. 21, Vivendi confirmed. Universal will hold a capital
markets day of briefings for analysts and investors on Aug. 25,
(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain
Editing by David Evans, David Holmes and Nick Macfie)