April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Vivendi SA Chief Executive Officer Jean-Bernard Levy's 7.95 billion-euro ($11.3 billion) SFR deal, his largest, gives him full ownership of the company's biggest cash generator and caps a decade-long break from its messy past. ... The deal to take full control of SFR may be Vivendi's biggest move yet to restore stability after Messier's tenure.
“Vivendi has become a much more straightforward company, much more centered on France, compared with Messier's very ambitious, very seductive vision,” said Alain Busson, an affiliate professor of media economics at Paris's Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales. ... Vivendi hasn't made a major external acquisition since late 2009, when it took control of GVT -- now the company's fastest- growing unit -- for $4.2 billion. Levy has said VIVENDI'S PRIORITY IS TAKING FULL CONTROL OF EXISTING ASSETS, including SFR and Canal Plus, France's largest pay-TV operator, along with “organic growth,” especially in emerging markets, where acquisition targets are increasingly rare. ... Levy's past acquisitions, which rebuilt the stripped-down Vivendi the former Oddo & Cie banker inherited from Fourtou, are driving current growth. GVT, which Vivendi bought after outbidding Spain's Telefonica SA, boosted revenue last year by 72 percent as members of Brazil's burgeoning middle class signed up for Internet services.
Activision Blizzard, the video-game publisher Vivendi created in 2008, has also added to profits thanks to hits like “Call of Duty” and “Guitar Hero.” ... Vivendi's majority stakes in Activision Blizzard, SFR and Canal Plus have earned it a “holding company” label, weighing on its shares.
The SFR agreement moves Levy a step closer to achieving his stability goal, with a pledge for an increase in dividends beyond 2010's 1.40 euros a share.