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Vivendi's musical quarter

Image source: Anton_Ivanov, Alexey Boldin - Shutterstock

What's going on?

French media giant Vivendi posted quarterly revenue notes on Monday that were pitched higher than expected.

What does this mean?

Vivendi’s comparable sales were up 6% on last year – and it had subsidiary Universal Music Group (UMG), the world’s biggest record company, largely to thank. Sales there were 19% higher as income from music streaming services like Spotify grew – and mega-hits from UMG artists like Ariana Grande topped the US charts for 12 of the quarter’s 13 weeks (tweet this). Vivendi’s louder music volume offset a revenue decline in its Canal Plus film and TV business, which lost subscribers.

Despite (or perhaps because of) its success, up to 50% of UMG will shortly be up for sale. That could net its owner as much as $42 billion, which Vivendi (currently worth just $38 billion overall) says it’ll spend on share buybacks and snapping up other businesses. Having acquired the rights to Taylor Swift’s future music in November, top of Vivendi’s shopping list may be her back catalog.

Why should I care?

The bigger picture: Media’s a-changin’.

Consumers’ shift to on-demand streaming, whether of music or video content (look out for our Netflix results story on Wednesday), has had consequences for media companies. Advertisers are spending less on television spots and more on Google and Amazon search results – in fact, digital ad spending is expected to surpass traditional ad spending in the US this year. Another French-headquartered giant, advertising firm Publicis, saw its stock rise on Monday after announcing plans to buy data marketing company Epsilon – which should give it a digital boost, particularly in North America.

Zooming out: Drama onscreen and off.

Vivendi spent months battling with an activist investor over the future direction of Telecom Italia, in which it owns a 24% stake – finally striking a truce two weeks back. The focus now shifts closer to home: on Monday, Vivendi’s own largest shareholder closed in on even greater control of the company, to the dismay of some observers.

Originally posted as part of the Finimize daily email.

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