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Troubled Vivendi
By Jon Newton,
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Music Industry News - as it happens
Source: MusicDish/Mi2N - May 3, 2002

Moody's Investors Service recently downgraded Vivendi Universal's long-term senior debt ratings and is thinking about doing the same to its utilities arm, Vivendi Environment.

Vivendi thinks hackers may have been behind a "malfunction" in voting at its shareholders meeting on April 24.

And now its financial woes mean it'll have to make a cash payment of $250 million next year to Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, founders of Rondor Music International, a music publisher bought by Seagram (owned by Vivendi) in 2000.

"When it acquired Rondor, Seagram committed to pay Messrs. Alpert and Moss the $250 million in cash if the shares of Vivendi Universal fell below $37.50 for 10 consecutive days," said Dow Jones Business News on May 3.

Vivendi's shares have dropped 45% since the beginning of the year.

Vivendi chairman Jean-Marie Messier is, "trying to restore his standing with investors," said the report. "In the next few months, analysts say Mr. Messier must show shareholders that he is ready to get his hands dirty managing the huge company and put an end to the serial deal-making that investors have become wary of.

"He also must restore confidence in his strategy, the crux of which is to someday deliver movies and music on demand to consumers via cellphones and TV sets."

As far as the voting problem goes, Vivendi said in a statement that a joint petition has been filed with the Paris Commercial Court by Vivendi Universal, Société Générale and Compagnie de Saint Gobain.

"Following a hearing on May 2," said Vivendi, "the Court: officially noted a malfunction in the tabulation of the votes cast during the Shareholders Meeting; formally acknowledged to Vivendi Universal that its Board of Directors would have the authority to convene another Shareholders Meeting as soon as possible.

"The aim of this meeting would be to re-determine the vote count on the resolutions that were not adopted on April 24, the results of which may have been affected by this malfunction. The Court also gave its permission for a re-vote to take place on the resolutions that were approved by the shareholders, in order to confirm the original results, if necessary.

"Based on the foregoing and the fact that the Court has determined that the resolutions passed at the meeting would stand as voted, the dividend will be able to be paid on May 13, 2002, as previously announced.

"Lastly, the Court agreed to Vivendi Universal's request for an independent expert to investigate the voting aberrations. The expert's assignment will be to ascertain the origin of the malfunction in the voting system and, in particular, to determine whether a possible 'hacking' of the voting system took place at the meeting.

"The expert will have six weeks to carry out the assignment and will examine the evidence submitted by Vivendi Universal to a Court Officer. This investigation will include a study of the electronic voting machines, a copy of the central computer's hard drive and the antenna of the voting system."

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