Shareholders of French media and utilities conglomerate Vivendi SA approved overwhelmingly on Tuesday its proposed merger with Canada’s Seagram Co. Ltd., bringing the creation of one of the world’s largest media groups a step closer to reality.
At a special meeting in Paris, 95 per cent of Vivendi’s shareholders voted in favor of the deal, which would also rein in Canal Plus SA, Europe’s largest cable television station.
Earlier Tuesday in Montreal, 90 per cent of Seagram’s shareholders also voted in favor of the transaction, Vivendi said in a statement. If shareholders of Canal Plus vote in favor of the deal at a meeting set for Friday, the merger will be free to take effect Dec. 11, pending final court approval, Vivendi said.
Valued at some $34 billion, the deal has already been approved by European and U.S. regulators, and was given the go ahead late last week by the French broadcasting authority, the Conseil Supirieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA).
Through the three-way acquisition, Vivendi hopes to create a new company to be called Vivendi Universal. The entity would combine Seagram’s film and music group, Universal, with Vivendi’s wireless Internet portal, Vizzavi, and Canal Plus’ cable television interests.
Vivendi Universal would be the world’s third-biggest media group after the combined America Online Inc.-Time Warner Inc., and Viacom Inc. It would own an archive of some 9,000 movies and 27,000 television shows.
Vivendi said a record 183,000 of its shareholders participated in Tuesday’s vote – 6,000 of them at a special shareholder meeting held at the Louvre, and the remainder by correspondence and by proxy. The 183,000 votes cast is four to five times the normal number cast, the company said.
Vivendi was required to meet certain requirements imposed by the CSA in order for its acquisition of Canal Plus to go ahead. Typically, no company in France is allowed to own more than 49 per cent of a television company, and Vivendi had to convince regulators that the cable provider would set its pricing and editorial content independently from Universal Vivendi.